Pippa Passes was created in 1854. It is signed and dated “E.E.S. 54″ and was rendered with pen and brown ink over pencil on paper. This drawing was purchased by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 1977. In addition to this piece, two other identical versions were produced by Siddal as a possibility for future sales (Marsh and Nunn 115).
I wanted to start with Pippa Passes because it’s one of Siddal’s earliest finished drawings. It also encompasses the prevalent style of outline drawing and literary subjects that were seen throughout early Pre-Raphaelite art (Marsh and Nunn 115).
This drawing inspired by Robert Browning’s dramatic poem Pippa Passes illustrates scene III of his work. Set in a modern age, the heroine (Pippa) meanders throughout the city of Asolo and comes across a group of “Poor Girls sitting on the steps”. As she passes by she overhears their conversation, as they boldly gossip to one another about their lovers and clients. As Siddal was a young milliner in the early 1850′s, she likely encountered prostitutes in the streets of London much in the same way as the heroine happened upon the gossiping girls (Marsh and Nunn 115).
This illustration symbolizes the moral differences between Pippa, who wears modest clothing, no accessories, walks upright, and conveys a peaceful expression, and the “Poor Girls” who are attired to be more eye catching, show expression, and sit on the ground. These representations fit with the contemporary concern over the types of women who were looked down upon, and were considered to have “fallen” in society’s eyes. Take a look at the links below showing Hunt’s Awakening Conscience in the Tate Gallery or Rossetti’s unfinished Found both from 1854 that touch on the subject on the “fallen” woman (Marsh and Nunn 115).
Sorry I couldn’t find a better link to Rossetti’s work (surprising I know)!
I find it interesting that as a woman artist, Siddal choose to stick with the concept of the “fallen” woman (Marsh and Nunn 115). I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Pippa in this work is a self-portrait of Siddal, but I think the face hints at her features and she has lighter colored hair (when compared to the other women), so perhaps she was replicating the reddish tone of her hair? If so, then she would be connecting herself to the image of the upright and virtuous woman, and not that of the “fallen” type.
One last little tidbit! John Ruskin purchased this piece in 1855 and exhibited it at the 1857 Pre-Raphaelite salon. Rossetti showed it to Robert Browning, the poet who inspired Siddal’s art in November of 1855. Browning was “delighted beyond measure” (Marsh and Nunn 115).
Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.
“Pippa Passes”. Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com/pippa-passes/.