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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"Lady Lilith" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts Lilith, who is a figure from Jewish mythology and she is portrayed as an iconic, Amazon-like female with long, flowing hair. Lilith from the Babylonian Talmud is a dangerous demon of the night, associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. The character is thought to derive from the stories of female demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion, found in cuneiform texts of Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, and Babylonia.

Rossetti first painted this masterpiece using Fanny Cornforth as the model, then altered the painting to show the face of Alexa Wilding. Rossetti overpainted Cornforth’s face, following the success of the painting “Sibylla Palmifera”, in which Wilding is the model. “Lady Lilith” represents the body’s beauty and “Sibylla Palmifera” represents the soul’s beauty, according to Rossetti ‘s sonnet.

"Sibylla Palmifera" by Rossetti,

“Sibylla Palmifera” by Rossetti, representing the soul’s beauty

A replica of Lady Lilith, painted by Rossetti in watercolour, which shows the face of Cornforth, is at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has a verse from Goethe’s Faust as translated by Shelley on a label attached by Rossetti to its frame:

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her locks,
And when she twines them round a young man’s neck
she will not ever set him free again.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a British poet, illustrator, painter and translator, who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti’s art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. Rossetti’s personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses.

Pre-Raphaelites

The Pre-Raphaelites was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848. The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by the artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Pre-Raphaelite Italian art.

The Pre-Raphaelites focused on painting subjects from modern life and literature often used historical costumes for accuracy. They painted directly from nature itself, as accurately as possible and with intense attention to detail.

The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their art, and published a periodical to promote their ideas. A later, medieval influence extended the movement’s power into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse.

Reflections

  • How in this painting of”Lady Lilith” presented in a more negative light relative “Sibylla Palmifera”?

Exploring Pre-Raphaelite Art

Lady Lilith

  • Title:                      Lady Lilith
  • Artist:                    Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Date:                      1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
  • Medium:               Oil on canvas
  • Style:                      Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:        97.8 × 85.1 cm (38.5 × 33.5 in)
  • Museum:               Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  • Name:                    Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti
  • Born:                     1828 – London, England
  • Died:                      1882 (aged 53) – Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England
  • Notable works:

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

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Photo Credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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