|Fair Rosamund (1861) D G Rossetti|
Many people don't like this picture of Fanny due to her high colour. It is a very strong interplay of red and green, like a rose and its foliage. In fact roses cover the canvas, from the glass, the pin in the windowsill, the necklace, her dress and the actual bloom in her hair. Even the bottle-bottom glass behind her echoes the round of the rose. She is a woman in full bloom, she is a flower in a garden. On the other end of the silken cord is the object of her desire, the king, as shown by the heart and crown motif. However the queen also wears a crown, and the legend says that the mistress was doomed to be a cut flower, by the hand of her lover's wife.
Was that what Rossetti dreamed of: his bride rising up to kill his mistress? There are moments when you feel that Rossetti is unable to stop his innermost fears and desire from appearing on his canvas, and it isn't unusual for him to portray the women he loves in the act of dying, as in Beata Beatrix and Dante's Dream. He wasn't the only person to find Rosamund and Queen Eleanor enticing subjects for a painting...
|Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor Evelyn de Morgan|
As you can see from de Morgan's painting above, nothing spices a story up like witchcraft, a wronged woman, a poisoned chalice and a doomed, innocent, pretty heroine. Throw in a secret love-nest in the centre of a maze and a silken cord for the lover to follow and you have a corker of a story. I love how the tiny winged babies of love are floundering around on the floor, fleeing the serpents of black magic. Queen Eleanor's dress resembles scales, like a serpent, and she reaches towards the window which shows Adam and Eve embracing in the garden of Eden. Hang on, is de Morgan saying that the King and his mistress are the innocent party and the wife is the serpent? That the love between the King and Rosamund is more pure and sacred than the love between husband and wife?
|Fair Rosamund (1905-17) J W Waterhouse|
First of all, the cloistering of a lover in a remote place, leaving her to just wait and wait has echoes in other romantic stories, such as Elaine of Astolat. For the Victorians too, there were overtones of Mariana in her moated grange waiting, waiting for a man to come. Waiting is a very feminine act, that of inaction, passivity, obedience, possibly the very virtues you might want in your mistress. Or spaniel. Stay!
|Fair Rosamund Arthur Hughes|
|Queen Eleanor (1858) Frederick Sandys|
|Fair Rosamund (1905) Herbert Sidney|
|Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund Edward Burne-Jones|
|Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund (1862) Edward Burne-Jones|
|Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor (1920) Frank Cadogan Cowper|
|Fair Rosamund (Annie Rogers) and Queen Eleanor (Mary Jackson) (1863) Lewis Carroll|
|Fair Rosamund William Bell Scott|
|Fair Rosamund (sketch) (1861) D G Rossetti|