Death and the Maiden Important Excerpts
“Two aspects of ‘The Lady of Shalott’ were especially attractive to artists: the woman imprisoned in her tower and, more especially, the dead or dying woman floating down the river to Camelot” “The theme of the imprisoned woman was most fully explored by Holman Hunt who produced several versions. The earliest was his 1850 drawing (Fig 4.4), the first by any artist to illustrate this subject.” “Both artists have adapted the poem to their own ends and have interpreted the allegorical element in the light of their own preoccupations. With Waterhouse the emphasis is on sexual awakening, seduction and betrayal, themes central to his other work of the 1890’s, while Hunt, ostensibly, is more concerned with moral retribution. Nevertheless, these pictures have much in common in their response to female sexuality.” “His [(Lancelots’s)] blazing sexuality remains safe so long as it is contained and controlled, kept at one remove in the mirror: the Lady’s exposure to it kills her.” “once the isolation ends, she is no longer fit to judge, but is herself condemned to death, for once she leaves her tower, she is in a sense a fallen woman and there is no place for her in the world outside.” “ ‘The death . . . of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world,” wrote Poe . . .’ ” “Yet to regard these painting of dead or dying girls as simply manifestations of pathological states of mind would be to ignore the social and artistic context in which they are located . . .extravagant gestures of grief and prolonged mourning were regarded by many Victorians with approval.” “nevertheless beneath this acceptable veneer of sometimes mawkish sentiment lies a suggestion of something more sinister . . .[these images] do after all show the helpless body of a girl, an adolescent, perhaps even pre-pubescent . . .feeling that the spectator is intruding on a young girl in bed” “ ‘ the only safe woman is a dead woman; but even...
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