Yesterday, when I shared that a detail from The Beloved can be seen on an ad for the Apple iPad mini, I realized that I’ve never posted about the painting on this site before. Which is a shame since it is not only a striking work, but unusual. Unusual in that it incorporates ethnic diversity among its figures and unusual in that during a period in which Rossetti’s work is usually focused on one central model, here he has assembled a group. We have a beautiful bride, arrayed in gorgeous cloth and jewels, surrounded by her virginal attendants and an African page. In the back we can see that oft-used spiral hair pin. Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Treuherz, Prettejohn and Becker tells us that the other accessories “represent a plurality of origins: the sumptuous hair ornament of the central figure has been identified as Chinese featherwork, the green robe as a Japanese kimono, which Rossetti borrowed from George Price Boyd along with jewel on the black child’s head. The pendant around the child’s neck is North African.”
The viewer of The Beloved (also known as The Bride) is an interloper of a private moment, for ‘The Beloved’ is not the Bride. We stand in The Beloved’s place while the Bride lifts her veil for her Bridegroom and her gaze is intended for him, not us.
Inscribed on the frame below the painting are Biblical texts taken from the Song of Solomon:
My beloved is mine and I am his.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth:
For thy love is better than wine.
She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of
needlework: the virgins that be her fellows shall
bear her company, and shall be brought unto thee.
In my next post I will tell you about Keomi, the woman seen at the right of the painting: