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August 14, 2003

Pre-Raphaelite Award: Thursday

Today's Pre-Raphaelite Award™ winner is Keira Knightly:


No knights in shining armour, medieval trappings or masses of red hair are necessary for Knightly to express a Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic. Her ethereal manner fits the Pre-Raphaelite agenda but there are more particular qualities in the line of the nose and the shape of the mouth which I think define the PRB's representations of feminine beauty. Actually, masculine beauty also. I am beginning to wonder about Rue's "women with prominent underbites" theory from Tuesday's comments... Did the Pre-Raphaelites have a fixation hitherto unremarked by art historians?

The Pre-Raphaelites' feminine ideal is best described by the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and by his one inspiration, Elizabeth Siddal. Flea-favourite, Camille Paglia describes the creepy, stalker-like intensity of Rossetti's interest:

As his career progressed or, some said, degenerated, Rossetti's paintings obsessively returned to a single subject, a woman of somnambulistic langour. The Rossetti woman rebels against Victorian convention, her unpinned hair and unstructured medieval gown flowing with lyrical freedom. The heavy head swaps on a serpentine neck. Her long thick hair is The Belle Dame Sans Merci's net of entrapment. Her swollen lips are to become a universal motif of Decadent art, thanks to Burne-Jones and Beardsley. The Rossetti vampire mouth cannot speak, but is has a life of its own. It is gorged with the blood of victims. Like Blake's sick rose, the Rossetti woman is blanketed in silence and humid, private pleasure.

Rossetti ritually commemorated the face of Elizabeth Siddal, a melancholic comsumptive who died of a laudanum ovedose shortly after he married her. Seven years later, he exhumed her corpse to rescue the sheaf of poems that, in a Romantic fit, he had buried with her. He constantly drew and painted Siddal before and after her death. His friend Ford Madox Brown wrote in a diary, "it is like a monomania with him."

Now off to work on a limerick involving the words "Pre-Raphaelite" and "underbite".

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 14, 2003 09:59 AM


I'm really serious Mr.Flea. See the 'underbite fetish' for yourself:


Posted by: Rue at August 15, 2003 12:00 PM