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Women in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Arthurian Renditions (1854–1867)

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José María Mesa Villar

This scholarly but accessible volume traces the impact of the enduring themes and key women characters from Arthurian tradition in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s artistic corpus. Combining literary and visual analysis, the author opens a double perspective upon the past to emphasize that the painter-poet’s renditions on the legend of Camelot should not be read only as merely illustrative of pre-existing textual sources. Quite on the contrary, his personal take stands out as an eclectic exercise of revaluation providing additional insight into his professional preoccupations and view of the self.
Unfolding in three sections, the book first focuses on the tragic love triangles in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, and so on Rossetti’s portrayal of Guinevere and La Belle Yseult. Next, it considers the value of female mediating presences and inter-gender unity in the Grail Quest. The third set of chapters addresses Rossetti’s view of chivalric paternalism and romantic rescue. For reasons of complementation and contrast, this last section also includes an analysis of the painter-poet’s contribution to the stained glass series on the legend of Saint George and the dragon.
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I.4 Females as a Reference Regarding the Conflict between Body and Spirit

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I.4Females as a Reference Regarding the Conflict between Body and Spirit99

The one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back’. His master said to him in reply, ‘You lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money on the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?’100 (Matthew 25: 24–27)

Rossetti’s medievalist renditions met unprecedented expansion during the second half of the 1850s, as a result of his friendship with William Morris and Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Nonetheless, the source of mutual feedback and the collaborative bond between them were not the main causes giving rise to his aesthetic turn. Having started teaching at the Working Men’s College in January 1855, Rossetti made Burne-Jones’ acquaintance after a public meeting held at that institution by June 1856.101 A couple of days later, he invited his admirer to his studio and showed him the watercolour Fra Pace, ← 103 | 104 → still in the works by then. From that moment on, Burne-Jones became a nodal presence in a new artistic triad which would revive the hopes pinned on the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood...

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