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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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Introduction: Rossettian Arthurianism and the Medieval Revival

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Introduction

Rossettian Arthurianism and the Medieval Revival

Casting a glance into the past sometimes responds to the need for a return to the hearth of the familiar. In the course of this attempt to decipher the sights and sounds kindled in the embers of memory, the flaming shadow of time burns anew before the eyes of observers, thus helping them to follow the traces of their own selves. Such a move sometimes derives from a conscious attempt to reconstruct what they knew – or else thought – they were; some other times, it stems from the aim of building a safe shelter from the unpleasant face of reality. Quite often, though, a sudden stimulus, either unexpected or not fully anticipated, allows an antique blaze to emerge from seemingly burnt-out coals, so that the mind becomes deeply captured by its renewed magnitude. These observations lead us to formulate two main questions: on the one hand, is it not by means of this look into the mirror of ages that the past manages to uphold a dialogue with the present to keep moulding the future? On the other, does this whole process usually emerge from what individuals believe themselves to have been, or does it not entail setting their eyes upon others, and, what is more, undertaking a journey across an ocean of decades and centuries afar?

Indeed, the impulse that invites many to set their thoughts upon such a trail does not rest exclusively on the columns...

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