Lovers Listening to Music by Elizabeth Siddal was completed in 1854. Like Pippa Passes it is signed and dated “E.E.S. 54” and is of a similar size and finish to form a pair (Marsh and Nunn 115).
W.M. Rossetti described it as “Two lovers listening to the music of two dark Malay-looking women”. It is unknown where Siddal’s inspiration came from for this illustration, but it likely came from a literary source (Marsh and Nunn 115).
It is feasible that she illustrated a few lines of her poetry; “Love kept my heart in a song of joy / My pulses quivered to the tune; / The coldest blasts of winter blew / Upon it like sweet airs in June.” (Marsh and Nunn 115).
Like Pippa Passing the female figure seems to be a self-portrait. W.M. Rossetti suggested that the male figure was his brother, which is very likely as he worked in Siddal’s studio. The part I love the best is a sketch by Siddal from 1853 where he sits for her (Marsh and Nunn 115). Women artists in the past didn’t get much opportunity to represent men, unless they were chaperoned so “nothing” could happen (mostly actions of a sexual nature). It is unclear if he sat for her without a chaperone; if he did, that would be a scandalous action to anyone who knew about it!
The child represents Love and is reminiscent of the angel in Rossetti’s Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849, Tate Gallery). The background is thought to be inspired from the Hastings area as she resided there in spring 1854 (Marsh and Nunn 115).
In March of 1855, Siddal accidentally sells Lovers Listening to Music (which was originally purchased by William Allingham), to John Ruskin who bought all of her existing drawings at once (Chapman and Meacock 90). The replicate she produced for Allingham is (or was) on loan to Wightwick Manor (Marsh and Nunn 115).
For not having any formal art education before creating Pippa Passing and Two Lovers Listening to Music shows potential. I’ve said it before, but if only she had had the opportunity to live a full live, I think she would have produced some phenomenal work! She did attended a ladies art class at Sheffield Art School in 1857. After this she embarked on her artistic career with little to no formal instruction. However, she was a part of D.G. Rossetti’s life, so she received knowledge (and probably inspiration) this way (Prettejohn, 189).
Without this connection to Rossetti, I doubt we would know as much as we do today because women artists were not taken seriously. Going way back to the Renaissance, if a woman artist produced a great work it would often be accredited to a male artist, or people would think she paid a man to paint it and put her name on it. I’m still in the midsts of learning about Pre-Raphaelite art, but the men who consisted of the movement, seemed to be ahead of their time in how they encouraged women artists.
I personally like Pippa Passing better than Two Lovers Listening to Music for two reasons. The first is that I feel Pippa Passing has smoother hatching to the clothing, giving it a cleaner appearance. I also love how the viewer must know about the “fallen” woman to fully appreciate this work. Even though I don’t like the rougher texture to the shading in Two Lovers Listening to Music, I think it does fit with the countryside setting that gives it more of a rustic atmosphere.
Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.
Chapman, Alison, and Joanna Meacock. A Rossetti Family Chronology. Great Britian, Palgrave Macmillan: 2007. Print.
Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.