Tag Archives: Pre-Raphaelite

John Everett Millais

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Christ in the House of His Parents (1850).





John Roddam Spencer Stanhope is considered by some to be a “second wave Pre-Raphaelite”. He was influenced by Edward Burne-Jones, and he was a close friend of Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. He was also uncle to Evelyn De Morgan, whom I have featured previously in this category.

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Love and the Maiden by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

Let’s jump right in. This above painting is another example of allegorical art in which Love has been personified in a mythological way. Shown below is a photograph of the artist next to a portrait painted by his niece, Evelyn De Morgan.


Stanhope was evidently willing to explore themes from Greco Roman Mythology to Christianity. The following painting (for which I did not find a title) apparently depicts the quote from Luke 2: 24 (“Why seek you the living among the dead?”) in which an angel proclaims the resurrection of Christ to the women who have visited his empty tomb on the third day.

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Here is a portrayal of an angel expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden:

Stanhope, John Roddam Spencer, 1829-1908; The Expulsion from Eden
Stanhope, John Roddam Spencer; The Expulsion from Eden; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-expulsion-from-eden-97032

I will show one more. This is taken from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, another wacked-out lovers’ tragedy from Roman mythology. Guess what? They both die.

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Orpheus and Eurydice on the Banks of the Styx by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

I will feature some more paintings from this artist next week.

Mythological Model – Julia vs. Maria

I wasn’t originally going to do this post, but I’ve had an interesting and enjoyable exchange with a gentleman named Erick Verran. He suggested to me that the model for the Perseus cycle (more specifically The Baleful Head) by Edward Burne-Jones could have been Julia Stephen, another Pre-Raphaelite model, rather than Maria Zambaco. This intrigued me, so I looked up information about Julia and was immediately struck by the similarities between her and the figures in the paintings.



Furthermore, searches for both women turn up  some of the same paintings. As yet another added item of interest, Julia Stephen was the mother of Virginia Woolf.  So what is the identity of the model in the Perseus cycle? Rather than an art scholar, I’m a biology professor messing around in my spare time, so I was reduced to analyzing profiles of chins and noses, which led me to favor, albeit irresolutely, Maria. This effort was complicated by my inability to find any photographs of Maria Zambaco, and Erick graciously sent me the following from a biography of Edward BurneJones titled The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2012) by Fiona MacCarthy.


Notice the caption (click on the image). It states that these photographs are of a young Maria Zambaco and goes on to imply that her portrayals by Edward Burne-Jones apparently involve a certain amount fanciful embellishment. These certainly seem inconsistent also with appraisals by various of her contemporaries in which she is described as strikingly beautiful. They also appear inconsistent with portraits of her by Dante Gabriel Rosetti (shown in previous posts in this series). By comparison her features seem rounded and less angular. Please don’t judge me as a chauvinist. I understand that standards of beauty are debatable and overly narrow, but the paintings of Maria Zambaco and the aforementioned appraisals seem to fall within stereotypes of beauty for both that era and the present.

Then I was reminded of something I ran across by accident on the internet: photos of Jennifer Connelly at different ages in her career. I selected a couple of examples for this post.



Notice that her face becomes noticeably leaner as she ages. The difference is even more pronounced in earlier photos. Keep in mind also that the photographs of Maria were from a time period when styles of technique and clothing could obscure the perception of feminine features. Of course, this does not change the fact that the photographs of Julia are rather striking. This leaves me with a problem of identification which is complicated by two factors: the tendency of an artist to make alterations to suit his subject matter and my continued inability to find photographs of Maria from the appropriate time period.

Finally, I did some cross-checking of dates and found that Julia was married in 1867 (one year after Edward and Maria met) and that the Perseus cycle was painted later during a time when Burne-Jones was almost exclusively using Maria as a model. By now, you are probably realizing that this is a rambling approach that proves nothing. In my exchanges with Erick, I had the nagging sense that I was out of my depth. Perhaps out of ignorance, I am still inclined to think that Maria was the model for the Perseus cycle and the series about Saint George and the Dragon (for which Julia is also sometimes credited as Sabra), but this is based on internet searches rather than real scholarship.

Sabra being led to the sacrifice
Sabra being led to the sacrifice
The Baleful Head by Edward Burne-Jones
The Baleful Head by Edward Burne-Jones

I will happily stand corrected if I have run afoul of a more definite identification.

Mythology on Canvas (Part 17)

After reviewing so many paintings by various Pre-Raphaelite artists, I was struck by some similarities I would like to review through two sets of paintings which I have titled The Power of Three and Out of the Tree.

The Power of Three

The use of three central figures seems to recur quite a bit. I wonder if this number is the highest that can maximize visual impact while avoiding clutter. In this sense, the careful arrangement of three can be elegant.

Clyties of the Mist by Herbert James Draper
Clyties of the Mist by Herbert James Draper
Moonbeams by Evelyn DeMorgan NT; (c) Knightshayes Court; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Moonbeams by Evelyn DeMorgan NT; (c) Knightshayes Court; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Storm Spirits by Evelyn DeMorgan
The Storm Spirits by Evelyn DeMorgan

Out of the Tree

There is something artistically appealing about the lines of a human figure blending with or emerging from the lines of a tree trunk and branches.

The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan
The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan
The Tree of Forgiveness by Edward Burne-Jones
The Tree of Forgiveness by Edward Burne-Jones

The only way I can think of to conclude this series and segway into other topics is to quote Monty Python. “And now for something completely different…”