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“Fair Rosamund” by John William Waterhouse

 

John William Waterhouse - Fair Rosamund

“Fair Rosamund” by John William Waterhouse

“Fair Rosamund” by John William Waterhouse depicts Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II of England, as she peers out of her window searching for her lover. She is unaware of the danger she faces as her rival, Queen Eleanor, seeks to murder Fair Rosamund.

Rosamund is kneeling beside flowers and a small tapestry she embroiders, in an almost saintly pose, as the victim. She is shown as desperate for her lover to return and reassure her.

This sympathetic treatment of Rosamund illustrates how medieval adultery was often viewed as thwarted love. The work sanctifies her love and depicts Rosamund wearing a crown.

Rosamund Clifford (1150 – 1176), often called “The Fair Rosamund,” was famed for her beauty. Rosamund was reputed to be Henry’s greatest love, which was threatening to the Queen.

Henry had met her in 1166 and had begun their liaison in 1173. The king had many mistresses, but although he treated earlier liaisons discreetly, he flaunted Rosamund. He may have done so to provoke Eleanor into seeking an annulment.

The traditional story recounts that to conceal his illicit affair from Eleanor. He conducted his affair within the innermost recesses of a complicated maze in his park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

Queen Eleanor heard the rumors, and she contrived to penetrate the labyrinth, confronted her rival.

Upon Rosamund’s death, rumors soon spread, perhaps assisted by Henry’s camp, that Eleanor had poisoned Rosamund.

The story of Rosamund Clifford’s death was handed down for generations and gradually embroidered with various additional details, more or less scandalous.

Rosamund Clifford was reputedly one of the great beauties of the 12th century and inspired ballads, poems, stories, and paintings.

Fair Rosamund

  • Title:                    Fair Rosamund
  • Artist:                  John William Waterhouse
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Date:                  1916
  • Dimensions:       Height: 96.5 cm (37.9 in); Width: 72.3 cm (28.4 in)
  • Type:                  Pre-Raphaelite
  • Museum:            Private collection

John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917) worked in the Pre-Raphaelite style, several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which included artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt.

Waterhouse embraced the Pre-Raphaelite style even though it had gone out of fashion in the British art scene by this painting.

John William Waterhouse

Fair Rosamund Clifford

 Virtual Tour of Pre-Raphaelite Artists

John Everett Millais

William Holman Hunt

Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John William Waterhouse

Eleanor of Aquitaine: myth and reality

Marie Spartali Stillman

Ford Madox Brown

Henry Holiday

Edward Burne-Jones

Frederick Sandys

Fair Rosamund Clifford

~~~

“Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.”
– John Ruskin

~~~


Photo Credit:  1) John William Waterhouse / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons;

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