Friday, 17 January 2014

Damsels Without a Dress

I don't mean to be over-dramatic but there are definitely times when I need saving.  I am incorrigible, I charge in to trouble without a second thought and I often want to help people by lobbing myself in the way of danger.  All this adds up to hot water with me often in it.  However, because of my rampant feminist principles (or something) I often don't need a knight in shining armour and slay the dragon myself.  Now, it's not like I'm complaining but some days I am frankly too exhausted to slay anything and I could do with some assistance.  In order to get some pointers on attracting the right sort of help, I obviously turned to Victorian art...

The Rescue (1900) John Roddam Spencer Stanhope
Goodness me, there are definitely moments when I can't be bothered or am too knackered to do walking.  Oh look, it's a stairlift in human form!  Now who hasn't wanted one of those?  And such an attractive one too.  However she seems to be at a slightly awkward angle: He seems fine but she has a look on her face that seems to say 'I'm definitely slipping...'

St George and the Dragon Sidney Harold Meteyard
Now, this work a bit better for me.
 'Hello, you seem to have slayed a dragon.  Here's my naked shoulder...'
I love the fact that peril seems to loosen your clothing.  After all, he's the poor blighter who had to fight the scaly beast but now her dress is falling off.  I expect it's collateral damage.  Mind you, it's a bit subtle for me, I'm not good at subtle (I know, you're as surprised as I am) and I'm worried that just a shoulder will not be enough to win my knight over...

Andromeda (1876) Arthur Hill
Now that's more like me, well, sort of.  I think that certainly makes a statement - 'I find I am unable to cope right at this moment, can you give me a hand?'  Nothing says peril like 'I've lost my pants'.

Andromeda Sarah Page
Poor old Andromeda.  For some reason the sea monster preferred his snacks without the wrapper, but I guess that makes sense.  These artists are obviously going for absolute artistic verisimilitude. Nothing says verisimilitude like no pants.  And nipples.  It's bad enough to find yourself on a rocky ledge sans under-bobbins but imagine finding yourself in Tescos like that.  Down the chiller aisle.  Help!

The Knight Errant (1870) J E Millais
Hang on, I think I can see a problem with the nudeyness, especially if I'm getting rescued by a chap with a big sword.  Not a euphemism.  But, blimey, that looks a bit 'choppy' and I'd want to keep both hands after the rescue.  I quite like the idea of covering up with extremely long hair, good for those modest moments plus I'm sure it hides a multitude of sins.  Not sure how I would get myself tied to a tree in the first place.  There seems no obvious way that the lady here has managed it.  Her clothes are folded nicely in front of her and there she is, not in any particular peril apart from the naked/tree aspect of it all.  According to Millais catalogue entry, the Knight Errant 'was instituted to protect widows and orphans, and to succour maidens in distress.'   I say, steady on.

Perseus and Andromeda (1929) Robert Anning Bell
Ah, now, this maiden was clever enough to be in peril on a comfy seat.  If I am to be imperiled, I would like to bring my own blanket and have a nice sit down while someone does the sea-beast slaying for me.  I've had a busy day, I'll be right over here if you need me, go ahead and kill the dragon-y thing.

The Rescue Vereker Monteith Hamilton
I quite fancy being scooped up but come now, lets be realistic.  That horse would look a damn sight more surprised if he had to scoop me up.  I am impressed that she has managed to be lifted up in some rather nice floaty white fabric, very flattering and dramatic and saves you from saddle-chafe.  You have to think about these things while being in distress without any pants on.  I'm not sure what he is saving her from, other than outside nakedness and possible pneumonia.  All very worthy things to be rescued from, but not as exciting as dragons.

So what have I learnt about being rescued.  Dragons work well, as do sea beasts, but nothing beats public nudity.  If I want to get rescued I obviously have to strip off.  Sigh, it's a hard life...

Then the People Brought her Clothes William Russell Flint


  1. There seems to be a fine line here between being rescued and being carried off, and several cases of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire. The manly embrace of a knight in armour is probably almost as uncomfortable as being gobbled by a dragon. And poor Andromeda! Exposed by her unfeeling relatives but no sooner rescued than immortalised for posterity before she could slip her kit back on. It's clearly a bad business, being a damsel in distress. Russell Flint's full title ought to be 'Then the People Brought her Clothes, but Ha ha, I painted her before she could put them on'.

  2. Look, in my state, I can't afford to be too picky. Which of us haven't thought 'if he can lift me, he can have me'? It's been a long week. There are definitely moments when I think 'I've gone to the trouble of getting undressed, the least someone can do is paint me'.

  3. Ever since I read this poem

    when I was a teenager, I have been a little leery about trusting the whole knight rescuing a princess from a dragon thing. Not to mention dragons are endangered species!

    "So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
    On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
    I didn't much fancy him. I mean,
    What was he like underneath the hardware?
    He might have acne, blackheads or even
    Bad breath for all I could tell, "

  4. Now, that is a valid point. I wonder how you get rescued by some chap with shiny thighs and good personal hygiene? Mind you, you sometimes have to take your scooping where you can get it...
    Thanks for the comments.

  5. Was the Sara Page painting influenced by Jules Joseph Lefebvre?

  6. Possibly as there are obvious likenesses. Mind you Page's Andromeda is quite a standard 'woman on a rock', common in the Victorian era. I wonder if they ever considered how chilly that would be...?

    Thanks for your comments and the link.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx