The Relation of the Pre-Raphaelites’ Poetry and Painting Styles
Within the dynamic artistic atmosphere of nineteenth century the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 as a primarily painting art group by Dante Gabriel Rosetti and John Everett Millais who had rejected the mechanistic and conventional approach of Raphael and Michalengelo. Instead of classical art’s elegant and dogmatic compositions, Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by romanticism that emphasized upon personal ideas, artist’s responsibility and original methods of depiction. Medieval culture played also significant role inside brotherhood’s artistic perspective through its spiritual and creative integrity. Return to historical paintings as well as imitation of nature as a pure source of beauty was perhabs the foremost interest of group because of self-independence and creativity. There were a number of principles and doctrines to which brotherhood had put forward, among which having genuine ideas, studying nature attentively to comprehend how to express it, the focality of heartfelt episodes of previous art as well as the production of good paintings in the light of these rules stand out as the most remarkable ones. After providing a short introduction as to Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood, in this study I will intensify on the question of how did they reflect their ideas and emotions from poetry to paintings by exemplifying upon both poem and painting version of the Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. [1: Latham, David. Studies in Pre-Raphaelitism in Honour of William E. Fredeman, William Evan Fredeman, David Latham. University of Toronto Press (2003). P:11-12]
To begin with, the Pre-Raphaelites’ poetry predictably etherealizes sensation or emotional perception by transforming it from logical dimension as well as earthly physical relationships to the phenomena of external world through a kind of mysticism and love of symbolism. Medievalism is also indispensable constituent of brotherhood’s poetry as it is felt as a compulsive fascination for the romance, chivalry, gorgeousness, mystery and supematuralism of the Middle Ages. The Blessed Damozel, best known poet by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, that displays all Pre-Raphaelitic characteristics expressed above is as follows;
- The blessed damozel leaned out Herseemed she scarce had been a day
- From the gold bar of Heaven; One of God’s choristers;
- Her eyes were deeper than the depth From that still look of hers
- She had three lilies in her hand, Albeit tok them she left her day
- And the stars in her hair were seven. Had counted as ten years.
- Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem, Yet now, and in this place
- No wrought flowers did adorn, Surely she leaned o’er me-her hair
- But a white rose of Mary’s gift, Fell all about my face…
- For service meetly worn; Nothing: the autumn falls of leaves.
- Her hair that lay along her back The whole year sets apace.
- Was yellow like ripe corn.
In the light of Pre-Raphaelites’ doctrines, the poem: The Blessed Damozel is pretended to be written by an innocent, grieving and poignant lover who had lost the belover by death as convenient to medieval context of romantic and dreamlike atmosphere. The belover is represented in the poem as standing at the gold threshold of Heaven by looking over young man -lover- who missed and loved her passionately. Seven stars depicted over the belover’s head for adornment as well as her hair with color of ripe corn is also associated with the fall of autumn. This medieval framework is traditionally referred to the mixture of spiritual imagination of heaven and physical imagery of world. Another significant message that is emphasized inside poem as fathom of pain of the seperated lovers is the vastness of the gulf isolating the lover and the belover.
As for the physical features of the Blessed Damozel, she is described by Rosetti as a quite beautiful sacred woman with a pair of eyes deeper than the dept as well as three lilies in her hand and seven stars on her hair. Her dress did never have flowers for adornment but Marry’s white rose as a gift, which is strong indication of Christianist influence on Rosetti’s depiction. As far as Rosetti was concerned, the belover was standing on by God built over the sheer dept to which space began and the sun could scarcely be seen due to immense distance among them. Meanwhile, three lilies expressed above lay as if asleep along her bended arms and she looks like faded and mournful for not united with the watching lover, Rosetti writes. The Blessed Damozel is weared by a white cloth when round his head the aureole clings. Finally, by depicting her to be equalled with angels in strong level when her eyes are praying to the God for fortunate life with lover, Rosetti attributes an unworldly spiritual symbolism to his beloved, the Blessed Damozel.
As for painting version of poem, the Blessed Damozel is a classical and well known example of medieval artistic theme in that the desire of a seperated lover to be reunited with his faded the beloved is framed by a daydream inside the mind of a lover. General framework of painting is surprisingly similar to depiction of the relation of an emparadized woman to her earthly lover because the beloved is portrayed with three liliad in hands and six stars (a little differently) over head as well as upset expression as written in poem. In addition, the Blessed Damozel’s hair colour, white cloth and banded arms demonstrates Rosetti’s loyalty to harmony of poem and painting. The feelings of seperateness of lovers as the main subject of poem is stunningly reflected on canvas through poet’s glance upward to face of emparadized Damozel who similarly looks upon him with desire to take his hand, pull inside the heaven, and to live together in the shadow of eternal life of the God.
Another interesting point I have realized is several echos of lovers behind the central figure of the Blessed Damozel on which Rosetti’s mind is substantially focused. As strongly felt within poem, religious attitute is by far more prominent element inside painting in the form of Byzantine culture or iconography yet, lover’s echos may be imitation of Christ and Marry’s visual decoration as well as three angel or spiritual idealization of other sacred figures below the Blessed Damozel as it had been medieval theology of Byzantine, one of study field of the Pre-Raphaelites. As far as I have noticed a number of depicted or imagined wishes of Rosetti in full version of poem are characterized in painting by scenarios of Damozel’s stance in front of the bar of heaven waiting for lover, sitting together under the mystical tree in heaven as well as living there as once on earth. Finally, in accordance with Damozel’s depiction in poem as central figure with sorrowful manner, radiance is adjusted to be harmony with her hair colour -faded orange tones- which evokes pessimistic emotions and profound grieves to readers or audiences.
Taken collectively, the Pre-Raphaelitic poetry and painting are intermingled with detailed artistic productions coupled with theological backgrounds from medieval Byzantine or classical arts cultivated by Dante and other significant Italian poets. Individual creativity and self-independence are vital artistic component for Pre-Raphaelites to establish a more genuine art movement as well as to reflect their own original ideals. The Blessed Damozel can by this way be regarded as an impressive reflection of poemic imagery to canvas in that various earthly or metaphysical eleborations in terms of personal feelings or moods as well as religious iconography are characterized in the light of Pre-Raphaelitic principles and methods.
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