I just found another Pre-Raphaelite painter whose name I didn’t know but who made some works which I recognize. The paintings shown in this post are ones I don’t recall having seen before. Compared to some of the other Pre-Raphaelites, his work seems centered more on portraits and accounts from the Bible. His name is John Everett Millais, and he was evidently quite popular during his lifetime.
The Return of the Dove to the Ark (1851). This is taken from the account of Noah and the Ark from the book of Genesis.
Victory O Lord! (1871). This is from the account of a battle in which the priests needed to keep the hands of Moses aloft during the Exodus of the Hebrew nation.
The Tribe of Benjamin Seizing the Daughters of Shiloh (1847). This event comes at the end of perhaps one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible. It is found in the book of Judges. The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart. Then again, it is.
Esther (1865). From the book of Esther, this evidently shows her preparing to go into the king of the Medes and Persians to plead for the lives of the Jews in captivity.
Edward Burne-Jones was a well known pre-Raphaelite painter from England. I will feature a number of examples of his work. The painting I have chosen for this week is The Beguiling of Merlin from 1874. As is the case with many paintings of stories from mythology, the full impact comes from knowing the back story (i.e. that which is understood but is not shown).
There are various versions of this account taken from Arthurian legend. Without going into too much detail, the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, captivates Merlin’s fancy and persuades him to teach her his secrets of magic. Once she knows enough, she entraps him in the trunk of a tree while reading aloud from his book of spells.
The painting depicts that stage at which the tree is in the process of closing around Merlin, who is either unable or unwilling to resist his infatuation with the Lady. Merlin, whom we often think of as possessing a white beard, is shown with a clean shaven face of intrigued and perhaps suspicious expression. The tall, striking woman looking down at him while holding an open book away from him serves as the centerpiece of the composition. And, of course, an informed viewer who knows what is in progress might feel a sense of dread.