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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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III.4 The Dead Damsel and the Shadow of Unrequited Love

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III.4The Dead Damsel and the Shadow of Unrequited Love

As already narrated in part two, Alfred Tennyson suffered the blows inflicted by a series of boisterous reviews, until he finally found a reward to his manifold efforts in the critical and public acclaim received by Poems (1842) and In Memoriam (1850). Following his appointment as poet laureate in November 1850, shortly after the death of William Wordsworth, his fame continued to flourish with the arrival of Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington (1852), Maud (1855), and the first edition of Idylls of the King (1859), among other pieces.67 The latter work, widely recognized as an eminently Victorian recreation of Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (1485), issued a new wave of inspiration to a variety of authors and artists during the following decades and also well into the first third of the twentieth century. Due to his growing popularity in the early 1850s, the publisher Edward Moxon considered that releasing an illustrated edition of Poems would become a huge financial success, especially regarding the forthcoming Christmas season. Unfortunately for him and his collaborators, the volume turned out to be an utter failure. Its visual value nonetheless retained much credit among critics and collectors, especially because of the distinctive graphic style that the contributions presented by Hunt, Rossetti and Millais offered when contrasted with the more traditional modes of action held by other illustrators.

Quite often, Rossetti has been believed to have got fussy with the...

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