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Lizzie and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood


I’ve just finished watching Desperate Romantics, a 2009 BBC mini series.

I’ll be writing a post on it at a later date, seeing that I had to re-watch it the moment I finished.

What I adore about shows like this is that it compels me to learn more about the real life characters featured.

One I found most interesting was Elizabeth Siddal (Amy Manson), an artists model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ,  painter and poet.

In 1849, while she was working as a milliner in Cranbourne Alley, London, she was spotted and introduced to the world of art.

She was the long-time lover, and eventually wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Aidan Turner).

Lizzie was his primary muse throughout most of his youth.

Their relationship was turbulent, as Rossetti was a well-known womanizer.

One of the most famous painting of the era was Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, completed between 1851 and 1852.

Millais produced Ophelia in two separate stages: He first painted the landscape, and secondly the figure of Ophelia.

The painting depicts flora of the river and the riverbank in great detail, and the choice of flowers are symbolic.

When painting the figure, Millais had Siddal lie fully clothed in a full bathtub in his studio at 7 Gower Street in London.

As it was winter, he placed oil lamps under the tub to warm the water, but was so intent on his work that he allowed them to go out.

Unfortunately, Lizzie caught a severe cold, and her father later sent Millais a letter demanding £50 for medical expenses.

Ophelia’s pose, with her open arms and upwards gaze, resembles traditional portrayals of saints or martyrs, but has also been interpreted as erotic.

She was just 19 years old when she modelled for the painting that made her immortal.

Life with Rossetti was extremely difficult. and the previous ten years he had been engaged to her, he had broken it off at the last-minute several times and was known to have affairs with other women.

The stress of her relationship with Gabriel, frail health, rumoured anorexia, depression, and an addiction to laudanum, resulted in her death in 1862.

It was suspected that she committed suicide, but the fact was hidden from public knowledge at the time.

Under the law at the time suicide was both illegal and immoral and would have brought a scandal on the family as well, as suicide would bar Siddal from a Christian burial.

A year after her death, Rossetti painted Lizzie in Beata Beatrix, which shows a praying Beatrice from Dante Alighieri.

It was a memorial to her.

File:Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Beata Beatrix, 1864-1870.jpg

 William Michael Rossetti described her as “a most beautiful creature with an air between dignity and sweetness with something that exceeded modest self-respect and partook of disdainful reserve; tall, finely-formed with a lofty neck and regular yet somewhat uncommon features, greenish-blue unsparkling eyes, large perfect eyelids, brilliant complexion and a lavish heavy wealth of coppery golden hair.”


About Agzy The Ripper

Sew, Rip, Repeat... and love each moment of it! Join me as I embark on a myriad of sewing and crafting shenanigans.

20 responses »

  1. Just by the vision of this woman in the bath, I shiver… too much trouble for the sake of art!!

    • Yes, but long after we’re all gone, she’ll still be immortal in this painting 🙂 Women do much more taxing things for a far lesser reward! She should just feel herself lucky she wasn’t painted by Picasso, as we woudn’t be able to recognize her 😉

      • You have a point there!!! About Picasso… can’t disagree with you!! LOL

        • Hate to say it, but I’ve never really been a huge fan. I much prefer Matisse. I saw a Matisse/Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern in London. Expensive tickets and a huge line to get in. I much prefer the Matisse museum in his house in Nice.

          • Picasso is not one of my favourites either. The two painters I love the most are Van Gogh and Monet!! 😉

          • Running for 30 minutes sounds like serious business to me! It’s great you have a hobby like that to motivate you!

          • I watched “Van Gogh Painted With Words” with Benedict Cumberbatch a few days ago. He was amazing as Vincent. You can see it on YT. I recommend it!

    • By the way, did I see pics of you in a ecorun on Twitter? Was it the one from a few months back, or did you complete another race?

      • The competion was today. I took some pictures, but I’m not in any one of them!!

        • I know 🙂 I meant these were your numbers etc. Congratulations! Did you have a good time? I have to admire you for doing it. I’m in horrible shape and should start doing something about it!

          • If I was competing seriously, no. I ran 5 km in 30 minutes and the first runners usually do it in 20 minutes. But, I just run for exercising!! 😉

          • Running for 30 minutes sounds like serious business to me! It’s great that you have a hobby that keeps you motivated and healthy!

  2. Well, I’ve been feeling very pround of myself!! I started running one year and half ago and then, I couldn’t run 1 km. Last saturday I manage to run 10 km for the first time and it took me 1 hour. 😀 You’re right this is serious business, I have a personal trainer to help me and I’ve trainning three times a week since the beginnig!!

    • And I’ll look for the movie about Van Gogh!! Thanks for the tip!

    • That’s wonderful! It sounds like a great idea, especially that a private trainer will help you stay focused. I had 2 friends who hired a trainer. The first really took advantage of it, and got really healthy and fit. The second one didn’t invest time and effort, and you couldn’t see any results. It all boils down to the effort you put in, so you really should be proud of your success!

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  4. Fascinating, I will have to hunt down that DVD

    • I just bought in on AmazonUK for around 10 pounds. People comment that it’s not very accurate, but I think that’s asking a lot from a BBC mini-series. It made me research the Brotherhood, learn a thing or to about the period, made me laugh and cry, and it has some jolly good sex scenes with handsome actors! What more do you need 😉

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