Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #9)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #10)

Lady Clare. (1857). Signed and dated “EES/57”. Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

The literary reference for this painting was Tennyson’s Lady Clare from Poems (1842). Siddal may have first seen the poem in a newspaper, and her interest in the poet eventually led her, Millais, Hunt, Rossetti, and others to illustrate his 1857 edition of Poems. Siddal’s designs included St Cecilia from The Palace of Art and Jephtha’s Daughter from A Dream of Fair Women. Lady Clare was the only painting completed as it was worked up from studies, a typical technique of Pre-Raphaelite artists in the 1850s (Marsh and Nunn 116).

In the story, the natural mother of the heroine begs her daughter to conceal her humble origins so Lord Ronald won’t withdraw his offer of marriage. Lady Clare refuses:
“”If I’m a beggar born”, she said,
“I will speak it out, for I dare not lie.
Pull off, pull off the brooch of gold
And fling the diamond necklace by”.

“Nay now, my child,” said Alice the nurse,
“But keep the secret all ye can.”
She said, “Not so; but I will know
If there be any faith in man.””
(Marsh and Nunn 116).

There may be a personal connection to this poem and watercolor for Siddal. A fear of being rejected for marriage by D.G. Rossetti may have been a lingering fear due to their class difference (Marsh and Nunn 116). The fear was unnecessary though, as they married in spring of 1860 (Prettejohn 191). The poem concludes happily too, as Lord Ronald does not reject his bride due to her lower class standing (Marsh and Nunn 116).

The Victorian interests in medieval art and architecture is evident here. The viewer catches a glimpse of the castle’s stairway through the partially opened door and the stained glass window captures the viewer’s attention with its bright colors. The stained glass references the Judgement of Solomon and when a true mother reveals herself (Marsh and Nunn 116).

Siddal studied Gothic art and medieval manuscripts, likely at John Ruskin’s house or the British Library. Because of this, there is an awkwardness to her figures, perspective, and compositions (Prettejohn 190). In this particular watercolor, Lady Clare’s attire is derived from manuscripts viewed at the British Museum (Marsh and Nunn 116).

In 1984, the Tate Gallery included this piece in its exhibition and it was critically discussed for its gender imagery, inter-texuality, and Pre-Raphaelite compositional practice (Marsh and Nunn 116).

Works Cited

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal”. Pre-Raphaelite Art. 4 Mar. 2009. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. http://preraphaelitepaintings.blogspot.com/2009/03/elizabeth-eleanor-siddal-lady-clare.html

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

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

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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/.

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #1)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, 1854, Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington, DE

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, 1854, Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington, DE

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal was an intriguing Pre-Raphaelite artist who produced a variety of works, including poetry, drawings, and paintings (mainly watercolor, but she dabbled in oil too (Prettejohn 185, 189).


Siddal’s birth is debatable; some place it at 1829, while others in 1834 (Elizabeth; Prettejohn 183). Her death occurred on February 11th, 1862 of a laudanum overdose, a type of opiate to relieve pain. After being found unconscious, doctors pumped her stomach to no avail (Chapman and Meacock 144). Her early death points to suicide (in 1949, Helen Rossetti Angeli claims that Siddal left a suicide note), and she likely had a laudanum addiction too (Elizabeth; Chapman and Meacock 144).


The watercolor Miss Siddal (pictured) by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti is one of the many works he produced of her; he obsessively sketched Siddal’s features throughout the 1850’s until her death in 1862 (Chapman and Meacock 59; Rossetti).
Look for more exciting information on Siddal in my next post!

Works Cited
Chapman, Alison, and Joanna Meacock. A Rossetti Family Chronology. Great Britian, Palgrave Macmillan: 2007. Print.

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1834-1862)”. The Victorian Web. 16 Sep. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/siddal/index.html.

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

“Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription” Rossetti Archive.  2008.  Web. 5 Mar. 2013.  http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/nd497.r8.m33.rad.html#A.R37.1.

(Image from: http://artseverydayliving.com/blog/2012/04/rossetti/)