Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
~W.B. Yeats, No Second Troy
Sexual power and intellectual curiosity make for very dangerous women, celebrated here. This is the first in the Pre-Raphaelite Women of Magic series.
These tiles are available in 4.25 and 6 inch ceramic. You can choose individual tiles, tile sets or to make your own set of tiles of the same size across different sets. You can also order individual tiles with custom frames.
Tile sets offer a better value than individual tiles. You can make your own set.
There is at least one imposter in this set. The time period is right, but the artist is definitely not Pre-Raphaelite. See if you can find it.
From top left: *Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lucrezia Borgia; Charles Megnin, Sappho; Evelyn DeMorgan, Helen of Troy; Rossetti, Dark Pandora; Frederick Sandys, Queen Eleanor; *Edward Burne-Jones, Sidonia von Bork. Valentine Prinsep, Il Barbagianni; *Rossetti, Lady Lilith; *John Everett Millais, Escape of a Heretic, 1559; *John William Waterhouse, Cleopatra; *Burne-Jones, The Beguiling of Merlin (Nimue); *Waterhouse, Lamia II; *Frank Cadogan Cowper, LaBelle Dame Sans Merci, 1905 version
*Available on 4.25 and 6 inch tiles only
The owl is often a sorceress's familiar and is one of Hecate's preferred spirits. It is also a symbol of the other world. Although Val Prinsep painted Il Barbagianni after Lizzie Siddal Rossetti's death, the girl in the picture looks very much like her. Her black dress also points in that direction.
Val Prinsep is primarily known for his part in painting, with William Morris, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, John Spenzer Stanhope, J.H. Pollen and Alexander Munro, the Oxford Union murals on a commission from John Ruskin.
Cleopatra VII was the last active pharaoh of the Macedonian Dynasty. She seduced two rulers of the Roman Empire, first Julius Caesar which allowed her to use Rome's military strength to dethrone her brother and become Egypt's sole ruler. She bore Caesar a son, Caesarion.
After Caesar's death, she seduced Mark Antony and combined their armies against Julius Caesar's great-nephew, Octavian. This venture did not go as well as hoped; Mark Antony was falsely informed that Cleopatra was dead, and stabbed himself to death. Cleopatra followed him to the afterlife by way of an Egyptian cobra bite.
Rossetti describes her thus: Lilith combing out her abundant golden hair and gazing on herself in the glass with that self-absorption by whose strange fascination such natures draw others within their own circle.
In Hebrew folklore, Lilith was Adam's first wife who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam. She is not derivative. Her name means "night hag" or "screech owl". Lilith left Adam after she refused to be subservient to him.
The Burney Relief (Babylon 1800-1750 BC) has been associated with Lilith, although current thinking is that it is more likely another Queen of the Night, Inanna or Ereshkigal. She has owls.
According to legend, King Henry II build a home for his mistress, Rosamund, at the center of an elaborate maze called Labyrinthus. Queen Eleanor found her way through by following a thread and poisoned her.
Frederick Sandys and Rossetti were close friends. Well, for awhile. Sandys lived with Rossetti in Chelsea for more than a year between 1866 and 1877. Rossetti accused Sandys of plagiarism over his painting of Mary Magadalene. Oddly, Rossetti's painting of Mary Magdalene with the Holy Grail 20 years later more closely resembles Sandys' Magdalene than Sandys painting resembles Rossetti's. From left: Rossetti Mary Magdalene Leaving the House Feasting (1857), Sandys Mary Magdalene (1860), Rossetti Damsel of the Sanct Grael (1874), Rossetti Mary Magdalene (1877).
The many La Belle Dame Sans Merci Pre-Raphaelite paintings are taken from a poem of the same name by John Keats. In all three of Cowper's versions of this painting, La Belle Dame is reminiscent of the Lady of the Lake legend. Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake predates Keats's poem by a decade and broke all records for the sale of poetry so that title was taken, although its subject matter was not Arthurian. See Lady of the Lake.
Evelyn DeMorgan's Helen is a Vanity of Vanities Helen. Like DeMorgan's Cassandra, she standings outside the city, but the city is much farther away. She regards herself in a mirror decorated with a nude Aphrodite. Like Cassandra, she raises her hair above her head, but for the purpose of self-admiraton. Dove bill and coo. There's no one evidence any one else exists.
The figure of Aphrodite appears on the mirror because it was Aphrodite who promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world for a wife if he chose her as the most beautiful goddess among Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. The winner won a golden apple addressed to 'The Fairest' by Eris, the goddess of discord.
Fascination with the middle ages is central to the Pre-Raphaelites. Millais takes a Pre-Raphaelite snapshot that makes captures the fluidity of time: It did not bode well for the heretic. The tarbard she wears bears frightful devils and flames. Having been condemned to the stake, her lover, disguised as a monk, binds the priest with his own rosary and rescues her. She is about to cry out, but he tells her "hush". The moment is frozen in time.
The Greek version: Lamia was the Queen of Libya and Zeus's lover. When Hera found out, she killed Lamia's children and changed Lamia into a half-snake, half-woman monster. Lamia went mad and began murdering children herself. Zeus grantd her the power of prophecy, second sight. However, she was cursed to never be able to shut her eyes.
But there's more! Keats version based on the Aristophanes version: A beautiful snake, Lamia meets Hermes who is chasing after a nymph. They strike a bargain: Lamia will give him directions to the nymph if he will change her into a woman. Hermes agrees, and Lamia transforms. When Lamia was in her serpent state, she had the power to send her spirit whever she wished. On one of her astral journeys, she has seen Lycius, a Corinthian philosophy student. Now that she is a woman, she appears roadside when Lycius is on this way to Corinth. As planned, he passes by and she ask him if he will leave her all lone where she is. One look and Lucius is in love, they walk to Corinth and move in together, avoiding everyone.
Lycius decides they should stop living in sin and invites all his friends (Lamia has none) to their marriage festival. She agrees as long as Apollonius is not invited. Lamiu conjures servants who decorate for the party in great splendor. Alas, Appollonius crashes the party and stares at Lamia, putting her on edge, so much so that all the feasting and music come to a halt. Lycius commands Apollonius to stop staring, and Apollonius calls a spade a spade, or in this case, a serpent a serpent. Lamia disappears, and Lycius dies on the spot.
The Lady of the Lake, Nimue or Vivien, was the foster-mother of Sir Lancelot and raised him beneath the Lake's waters. She presented Excalibur to King Arthur. Merlin fell so deeply in love with Nimue that he agreed to teach her all his magical powers. She recorded all his prophecies and became his lover. She eventually beame more powerful than Merlin and imprisoned him in a glass tower. She was forced to reclaim Excalibur when Arthur was fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann. Excalibur was hurled back to the waters. Her place as Merlin's student and lover was largely overtaken by Morgan Le Fay.
Rossetti spent the 1850s revisiting various paintings of Lucrezia Borgia, with this being his last. In this painting, Lucrezia is washing her hands, having just poisoned her husband. That would be husband number two, Duke Alfonso Bisceglie, poisoned with the assistance of her father, Pope Alexander IV. In the mirror, you see the Pope assisting the Duke to walk to speed up the process.
Historically, the Borgias' politics inspired Machiavelli's The Prince. Beginning at age 13, the family leveraged Lucrezia's beauty to forge a series of marriage alliances with other powerful families. Lucrezia's loyalty to her birth family did not serve her well. She reportedly possessed a hollow ring that she frequently used to poison drinks at dinner parties.
Lucrezia not only had sexual power, but intellectual knowledge as well. She ruled the Holy See in her father's absence. Lucrezia was said to have a series of lovers, although the main person saying so was her first husband, Giovanni Sforza. Several business associates of her family mysteriously died of poison, but to set the record straight, none one of Lucrezia's three husbands died of poisoning. When the Borgias no longer found the Sforzas politically useful, Giovanni acted as a spy to Milan's advantage. The Borgia men then persuaded Giovanni that being married to Lucrezia was no longer in his best interests. Giovanni charged Lucrezia with paternal and fraternal incest. Soon thereafter, Giovanni signed a confession of impotence, swore that Lucrezia was a virgin and the Pope, her father, granted the annulment.
While waiting for the annulment, Lucrezia bore a child in 82268 while waiting for the annulment, casting shadows of doubt on both Giovanni's confession and Lucrezia's reputation. Giovanni spent the rest of his life explaining to anyone who would listen that he wasn't impotent while calling Lucrezia a femme fatale and similar. A few years later, his third wife bore him an heir.
Cesare Borgia, Lucrezia's brother, murdered her second husband, Duke Alfonso Bisceglie of Aragon. The first attempt, on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, failed. While recovering, one of Cesare's servants strangled Alphonso. Now twice a widow at age 19, Lucrezia had fewer suitors than previously, despite her waist-length blonde hair and well-proportioned body.
The Borgias' candidate for third husband was Alfonso D'Este, son of the Duke of Ferrara, but the Duke was reluctant. The Pope persuaded his family, offering a dowry of over 200,000 ducats and also threatened war if Alfonso did not take the hand of Lucrezia. They wed when Lucrezia was 21. Within the next few years, both her father and brother died, which stopped the husband turnover. Alfonso D'este was her final husband, surviving her when she died in 1519 at age 39.
Pandora, the first woman on Earth in Greek mythology, has opened the forbidden box and allowed all the gifts within to escape. Only hope remains.
Rossetti's Pandora is dark and somber, as if she has already opened the box and now realizes what she has released upon the world. The model is William Morris's wife, Janey. This was his first painting with Jane as a model.
Pandora's Box in this painting was made and decorated by Rossetti himself, for the purposes of this painting.
This is the imposter!
Sappho, the most dangerous woman ever to have existed. There's evidence: Born between 630 and 612 BC, she died around 570 BC. Six hundred years after her death, ten of her books were republished. All of her poetry that could be found was burned 900 years later by order of St. Gregory, and again in 1073 by papal decree. Charles Megnin is not Pre-Raphaelite. He is French academic but his Sappho is more powerful than all others.
Burne-Jones would have been familiar with Sidonia von Bork from a popular novel of the day. The real Sidonia von Bork was a femme fatale executed for witchcraft after the unexplained deaths of several Pomeranian dukes. Among the charges brought against her were: consultation with soothsayers, knowledge of future and distant events, sexual contact with the devil who materialized in the form of her cat, Chim, and and magical practices such as crossing brooms beneath a kitchen table. She confessed under torture and was executed in 1620. In 1849, Oscar Wilde's mother, Lady Wilde, published an English translation of of a popular German romance about Sidonia. This translation was later published by Kelmscott Press in 1894. Rossetti, in particular, often referred to and quoted the novel.
4.25 inch: $45
6 inch : $52
8 inch: $86 each
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