This month, I re-visited a book called, That Summer by Lauren Willig and quite a few memories of reading her story beforehand and previously studying the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood came flooding back. Then it hit me, Rossetti’s Proserpine painting (1874) is among my favorites! I quickly did an on-line search and found the picture with some information. What is extraordinary is that, before the second sleep recommended via email that I might consider featuring a painting from the Pre-Raphaelites, the very weekend I read Willig’s book. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?
Victorians are known for their dramatic romantic notions, take on mortality and among other things…For instance, death was on their mind quite often to say the least. How they died and the afterlife was extremely important to them. Rightly so during that era both in England and America.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti often created his art based on his own experiences in life and love. In this painting, Proserpina is the queen of the underworld and the wife of Pluto. She was abducted by Pluto and her mother Ceres cast a famine on earth until her daughter was returned. The fruit Proserpina holds represents death. Anyone who ate it had to stay in the underworld for the rest of their life. Imagine that! As the story goes, Pluto made an agreement to release Proserpine back to her mother, once a year.
Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. A group of English painters, poets and art critics who showed extraordinary talent. They formed the Brotherhood that was inspired by a rejection of the essence of art that the Royal Academy, London was promoting at the time.The members included William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Am I leaving anyone out?
They are widely known for turning back to lavish detail (such as using props), vibrant color and complex compositions. What really stands out to me are the themes and characters drawn from of literature in history, folklore and Greek mythology. You will also find these artists believed a return to nature was paramount.
Many renown authors such as Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, Keats and Scott inspired their art. To this day these artist’s paintings are still well-known. Many of you will be familiar with Edward Burne-Jones-The Beguiling of Merlin-which is on the book cover of Possession by A.S. Byatt. The story happens to have set in a dual time-line of 19th and 20th Century. “A novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.” There was also a movie made in 2002 based on this book starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Anne Ehl, Game of Thrones Lena Headey and other notable actors. There is a particular scene where Jennifer Anne Ehl (Christabel Lamotte) is modeling for Lena Headey’s (Blanche Glover) painting and she is in a medieval custom. Very Pre-Raphaelite feel. I highly recommend both book and movie.
One can seriously go down a rabbit hole exploring Classic Literature and Art History. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface!
The sources come from Wikipedia, Wikimedia (Image: Proserpine painting) the free encyclopedia and my own independent studies. The description of Possession by A.S. Byatt is from goodreads.
Be sure to take a look at January’s Image of the Month: By the Water’s Edge. I include half of a poem I have written.