John Everett Millais’ Mariana

Millais Pictures, Images and Photos
For myself, one of the most enduring appeals of Pre-Raphaelite art is its strong relationship to romantic literature. Millais’ 1851 work, Mariana, is a great example of this. The painting is based on a poem of the same title by Tennyson that in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure. In Measure for Measure, the character Mariana is abandoned by her fiance, Angelo, when her dowry is lost in a shipwreck.

Millais’ illustration of Mariana at the window reminds me of other stories, such as that of Penelope. Like Penelope, Mariana is engaged in needlework. Autumn leaves have blown in through the window and are scattered about the room–on the floor as well as on her needlework project, which the gallery description at the Tate suggests represents “the burden of her yearning as time passes.” She is staring at a stained-glass image of the annunciation, which according to Tim Barringer was seen “as a quasi-sexual event” for both Millais and Rossetti in their paintings (42-43). There definitely is an undercurrent of frustration and longing in the painting.

Millais originally exhibited the painting along with several lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, Mariana:

She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’

Tomorrow: another Pre-Raphaelite vision of Mariana.

image courtesy Tate Gallery
Source consulted: Tim Barringer. The Pre-Raphaelites. London: Everyman Art Library, 1998

Bois de Rose Children’s Clothing, Paris

I still remember my favourite dress growing up. It was navy blue and smocked with pale blue tulips. I just adored it. I think my sister had a matching one in pale green.

Smocking is still a popular design feature in children’s clothing, but most of it is pretty poor quality. Hand smocking is labour intensive, which makes it very expensive. But if you are looking for luxurious smocked outfits, look no further than Bois de Rose. Situated in the heart of Paris, Bois de Rose specializes in delicious smocked dresses (their website is in both French and English). I ran into this store two years ago while I was walking through the Latin Quarter with my mom. They were closed, but we peered through the window in astonishment. I had never seen such beautiful children’s clothing (they have great things for both boys and girls and in an amazing variety of fabrics). They are truly little works of art. They are the Hermes of children’s clothes! For the truly indulgent, Bois de Rose will even create matching dresses for your daughter and her doll! If you are ever in Paris, this shop is a must-see! I’m expecting the arrival of a neice in June, so this is one place I have to shop while I’m in Paris.

If you are drawn to the design appeal of smocking but want to avoid the hefty price tag, there is a smocking association, the Smocking Art Guild of America, and numerous websites that cater to smockers. If you want to learn to smock on your own, A-Z of Smocking is a comprehensive resource with easy to follow instructions and clear illustrations for all of the stitches(the company that publishes this book also publishes a smocking magazine in Australia–who knew smocking was popular enough to have its own magazine?).

In other news, only two more days until I leave for Paris! I’m so excited! But I’m also a little freaked out–I need to have my thesis all finished before I go. Right now I’m in the process of doing my last bits of editing and writing my abstract. I will be so glad to be done with this!

Petition on Behalf of William Morris Gallery

Edward Burne Jones’ Holy Grail Tapestry (discussed in yesterday’s post) is set to go to auction this evening. It’s presence at the auction has caused quite a stir, and fans of William Morris’ art have decided to use the recent media publicity that the auction has generated in order to give attention to the plight of the William Morris gallery.

The BBC reports that today as the Morris and Company tapestry goes to auction at Sothebys for £1 m pounds, a petition containing 11,000-signatures will be presented to the Waltham Forest Council, asking them to increase opening hours and hire more staff.

William Morris was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, known for his writing as well as his contributions to the art world. The museum and gallery is located at Walthamstow in what was Morris’s family home from 1848 to 1856. The museum has been open since 1950 and contains £60 m worth of his work.

Unfortunately, the museum’s hours have been drastically reduced in recent months, and the museums long time curator was sacked by the Waltham City Council because they felt it wasn’t worth paying the money to keep him. I can understand why people in North America might not fully appreciate William Morris’ contributions to the art world, but it seems hard to believe that the city council in Waltham–where Morris grew up, can’t grasp the importance to keeping a museum dedicated to his work. I certainly hope that the petitioners are successful. I signed the online petition a couple of months ago.

In closing, I would like to extend my apologies to anyone who was trying to access my blog this morning! I was trying to switch over to publishing on a custom domain, but it didn’t exactly work. I think I actually did it correctly, but it takes a day or two to update the DNS, and I really don’t want to have to wait that long. I’ve learned my lesson…do stuff like that at night!

Led Zeppelin and Pre-Raphaelite Art

It turns out that gifted Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has a thing for Pre-Raphaelite art! I read the news on Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood yesterday and decided to do some more research into Jimmy Page’s art collection.

I can’t say that I’m that surprised…if you’ve ever listened to Led Zeppelin’s music, you’ve probably noticed that the band was heavily inspired by Medieval/fantasy themes. Lead singer Robert Plant’s favorite book was the Lord of the Rings and it’s evident in their music. A number of their songs reference material from Lord of the Rings, including “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Battle of Evermore,” and “Ramble On”, with “Ramble On” being the most explicit.

Jimmy Page has stepped beyond admiration for the medieval and has become an avid collector of Pre-Raphaelite art (including at least one painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti). All of this has come into the news in the last couple of days as Page plans to auction one of the tapestries in his collection at Sothebys–the final scene from Edward Burne Jones’ Holy Grail Tapestry (pictured above).

The piece is expected to fetch around $2 million at auction. It was originally designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and woven by Morris and Company’s tapestry weavers. It took three weavers a full two years to complete. **edit**I guess it depends on who you ask. The New York Times reports that the 24 foot wide tapestry actually took eight men two years.

According to Page’s art dealer-to-the-stars, Paul Reeves, (who has many hats, it appears–he also designed clothing for the Rolling Stones and Beatles, but has been a full time art dealer since 1976) Page is forced to sell because the wood panels on his Thames Mansion are too weak to support the tapestry. It seems more likely that he is in financial trouble, since he also plans to sell a gigantic set of Arthurian round table and chairs, and two sideboards at the same auction.


William Morris Inspired Quilts

I know I was supposed to begin writing about Medieval influences on the Pre-Raphaelites, but I recently came across some beautiful artwork that deserves special attention.

I received an email from Michelle Hill on Sunday about her interest in William Morris’ designs. After paying a quick visit to her website I realized she is an incredibly gifted artisan. She cites William Morris as a major inspiration for her work and her designs often feature interpretations of his designs.

Her quilts are simply incredible and their spectacular design speaks for itself. Generally speaking, I am not a fan of quilts. I appreciate the hard work and patience quilting requires, and I often see old quilts that I find interesting from a historical perspective, but I have never seen a quilt that I would really want to have in my home. Most quilts simply do not fit with my aesthetic.

This is no longer true. Michelle’s quilts are absolutely lovely and I think they demonstrate decisively that quilts need not be country western-ish! Her designs are more evocative of fine tapestry than of the majority of quilts. She has even done a quilted interpretation of the famed “Lady and the Unicorn” Tapestry! It never even occurred to me that you could create such beautiful art through quilting. Since I’m sure I can’t afford to commission one of these lovely quilts, it appears I may actually have to learn how to do it myself!(Luckilly Michelle sells the patterns for her quilts). She has also created some smaller applique pillows based on Morris designs that would be good starter projects.

Michelle has won many awards throughout Australia for her quilts. Her entry for the “Festival of Quilts”, called Renaissance (pictured above), won first place and “viewers choice” in the Professional Appliqué category of the Quilters Guild of SA Inc’s “Festival of Quilts.”

Inspiration for this quilt, called “Coffee with William Morris” came to Michelle over a cup of coffee in 2002. It includes elements of Morris’ “Rose” and “Brompton” designs.

I hope you enjoyed these designs. Michelle has many other quilts on display at her website.
If you are interested in finding the patterns for these beautiful designs, they can be purchased through a number of fine retailers. For more info, please visit Michelle’s website.