Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #8)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #9)

Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear (c.1856-59). Watercolor on paper. Tate Gallery.

Clerk Saunders, Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear, and other works by Siddal helped to redirect the Pre-Raphaelite movement to a medieval theme during the second half of the 1850s (Prettejohn 183). Medieval themes included scenes of chivalry, the knight’s quest, and courtly love (Prettejohn 185). Siddal also led the way for developing distinctive Pre-Raphaelite themes of sorcery, enchantment, and spell-casting.  The distant era of daring deeds, supernatural appearances, and star-crossed lovers were also attractive concepts (Prettejohn 184-185).

She was an avid reader, inspired by romantic poetry of John Keats and William Wordsworth, as well as more recent poems by Alfred Tennyson and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She was fascinated by border ballads, more specifically “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border” complied by Walter Scott (which was the literary reference for Clerk Saunders too) (Prettejohn 184-185).

Siddal was also inspired to write poetry; she sketched an illustration for The Lass of Lochroyan. The heroine was portrayed as an outcast who follows the enchantment of her lover, and is then branded as a witch (Prettejohn 185).

Now, back to Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear.
Within the painting, the lady assists the knight with his pennant before he heads out for combat. To his left, his horse and squire await in the doorway. This subject was common for the time it was painted; see Rossettie’s Before the Battle (MFA, Boston), Millais’ At the Tournament (Ashmolean), and Burnes-Jones The Knight’s Farewell (Ashmolean). This period was marked with a desire for intensely worked court scenes (Marsh and Nunn 117).

D.G. Rossetti. "Before the Battle".

D.G. Rossetti. Before the Battle.


Edward Burne-Jones. The Knight’s Farewell.

The ultimate inspiration for all of these works was Maclise’s “Spirit of Chivalry” (1845-7) for the Palace of Westminister and was widely distributed through engravings (Marsh and Nunn 117). In Siddal’s watercolor, she treats the scene in almost a domestic way. The knight fiddles with his hammer and nail and the lady awkwardly embraces him (Marsh and Nunn 117). This gives me two reactions; one where they are all about business and there isn’t emotion because they are focusing on the task at hand. On the other hand, I could also see it as the lady showing her support and affection in what must be a scene filled with tension. The knight is about to go into battle and it is uncertain if he will survive.  In comparison to Burne-Jones The Knight’s Farewell, Siddal’s painting lacks the passionate embrace between lady and knight.

Lady Affixing Pennant to a Knight's Spear circa 1856 by Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal 1829-1862

Elizabeth Siddal.  Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear.

The red of the pennant symbolizes Love and fills in the space between the two figures. Even though the scene is in an enclosed space, it has a quality of openness because of the open window and door, allowing the viewer’s eye to travel outside. The distant hills may be inspired from the Peak District, where Siddal visited in 1857/8 (Marsh and Nunn 117).

Philip Burne-Jones owned the work in 1904. The Tate Gallery then purchased it in 1912 and acquired it in 1917. Unlike most of Siddal’s other work, this painting was given a descriptive title for convenience, and not one with a literary or poetic one (Marsh and Nunn 118).

Works Cited

“Daniel Maclise Paintings”. Teppai Art. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6DH938zOHGc/UJ5xJ2SB-AI/AAAAAAAAGmw/0mc_l9Er6Zk/s1600/Maclise_Daniel_The_Spirit_Of_Chivalry.jpg

“Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear”. Tate. Aug. 2004. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. Web. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/siddal-lady-affixing-pennant-to-a-knights-spear-n03202

Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.

“Pre-Raphaelites: The Poetry of Drawings”.  The Telegraph. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/8296065/Pre-Raphaelites-The-Poetry-of-Drawing.html?image=7

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.

“Rossetti, Dante Gabrielle”. All Art Biz. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. http://allart.biz/photos/image/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_55_Before_the_Battle.html#!/exjun_

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #7)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #8)

Clerk Saunders. (1857).  Signed and dated “EES/1857”. Watercolor, bodycolor, and colored chalks on paper laid on stretcher (Marsh and Nunn 117).

Siddal started Clerk Saunders as a painting in December 1856 and completed it in 1857 (Chapman and Meacock 103; Marsh and Nunn 117). However, a woodblock illustration was produced for a future ballad book in May 1854. Additional studies can be seen in the 1866 photographic record of her work. Inspiration came from the old Scottish ballad Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border by Scott’s (Marsh and Nunn 117). Art prior to the High Renaissance (such as Gothic art and medieval illumination), also influenced Siddal’s work (Prettejohn 183).

Within this painting, May Margaret encounters the ghost of her murdered lover, Clerk Saunders, who appears after making his unearthly entrance through the wall to renew his vows. Kneeling on the bed, she kisses the wand to show her fidelity (Marsh and Nunn 117; Prettejohn 183). Both figures appear ghostly and pale, and this heightens the dramatic scene of the dead confronting the living. Through the window, dawn’s light pours over the slumbering medieval city. On the shelf an empty hour-glass stands, which could symbolize death, as one’s life has literally run out of time (Prettejohn 183).

The theme of love/desire, use of bright colors, a medieval connection, and a literary reference represents several important Pre-Raphaelite characteristics. Her style is defined by compositional layering, enclosed spaces, attenuated figures, and jewel-like colors. (Prettejohn 183).

This painting also reflects upon the contemporary issues between class and gender. Like Siddal’s Lady Clare and Keat’s Isabella painted by Millais in 1849, this is a story about love between social unequals. Items throughout the room (such as the prie-dieu she is kneeling upon which was used to aid in prayer), suggests that May Margaret is religiously devoted, as was proper for women (Marsh and Nunn 117). The podium decorated with an angel, holds a manuscript. The alcove also has a manuscript and what looks to be an apple. Looking closely at the piece, there seems to be a cross hidden in the shadows on the right side of the alcove behind May Margaret (though it could just be me trying to create more religious references)! Looking at Clerk Saunders, I wonder if he was some type of knight, as there looks to be a crest/emblem on his robes? I’m sure the flowers symbolize something too; perhaps life because they are alive (for the time being anyway) and if someone knows the specific type of flower, there could be a more specialized meaning behind it.

To me, May Margaret seems could be partaking in witchcraft (another popular movement within Pre-Raphaelite work). Did she “summon” Saunders to appear? I believe it could be a possibility; her manuscripts are closed, if there is a cross in the shadows, it could symbolize her wavering faith because it isn’t displayed prominently, plus she has a wand! Just my thoughts though. Also, this could be another self-portrait-the woman has that red hair again!

Comparisons can be made between Siddal’s Clerk Saunders & Morris’ La Belle Iseult. They both have similar environments of an enclosed chamber and a bed with crumpled sheets (Prettejohn 186; Chapman and Meacock 103). I also noticed that in La Belle Iseult, the manuscript is open, which could suggest her strong religious devotion.

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 10.24.04 AM

William Morris’ La Belle Iseult1858

Clerk Saunders was exhibited at the 1857 Russell Place Show and also included in the British Art exhibition that was sent to America later in that same year. Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard then purchased the painting. Charles Fairfax Murray later acquired it and inscribed on the back: “This picture by Mrs Rossetti, esteemed by her husband the best of her works,” and later continues, “Gabriel Rossetti himself worked on this picture as was customary with him, as Mr Burne-Jones told me long ago.” However, the painting doesn’t display D.G. Rossetti’s touch and it’s possible that Murray hoped to enhance the value of this work by his statement. Sir Galahad at the Shrine (1855-7, Tate Gallery 1984, no.217) was signed by both Siddal and D.G. Rossetti so Murray may have also confused the two works accidently (Marsh and Nunn 117).

Works Cited

Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.

“Pre-Raphaelites: The Poetry of Drawing”. The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/8296065/Pre-Raphaelites-The-Poetry-of-Drawing.html?image=12.

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.

“William Morris, Jane Burden”. Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May. 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. http://gather-ye-rosebuds-while-ye-may.blogspot.com/2010/03/william-morris-jane-burden-la-belle.html.

Eleanor Elizabeth Siddal (Siddal Post #5)

Eleanor Elizabeth Siddal

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).

http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/whh/replete/P10.html

http://paintingforsale.me/paintings/dante-gabriel-rossetti/dante-gabriel-rossetti-found-14329.html

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).

Works Cited
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/.