Monday, 24 March 2014

Your Favourite Alexa - Part 1

Hello Darlings, and welcome to my competition!  If you cast your minds back to last July, you'll remember we had a poll to see which was your favourite image of Fanny Cornforth.  I thought it might be jolly to do the same with Alexa Wilding, seeing as she is the subject of my new novel, A Curl of Copper and Pearl, launched in a couple of weeks.  Not only that, you could win a signed copy too - control yourselves, such excitement!

A Curl of Copper and Pearl focuses on the madness of the Pre-Raphaelite circle as seen through the eyes of Alexa, an outsider.  Rossetti used her face to express his vision over and over again but she has always remained the forgotten muse.  I thought it would re-balance this terrible oversight on behalf of art historians and biographers if we had a vote on what was the most beautiful oil of Alexa and what was the best sketch or portrait.  Today we'll start with the oils, the major works, the famous stuff...

Venus Verticordia (1864-1868) 
Let's begin with the image I chose as the front cover of my book.  Good old Venus, with her boob out - no wonder she's popular!  Begun before Alexa had met Rossetti, it is undoubtedly her face added later, but as for the rest of her, it's a bit of a mash-up.  Absolutely stunning though.  Nice boob.

Regina Cordium (1866)
I've always loved the colour of this picture - it is the pale russets that are actually quite unusual for Rossetti.  She looks like the lip of a seashell, all pearly and blushed, with three colours complimenting each other: gold, pink and orange.  Rossetti had removed Elizabeth from this role to replace her with Alexa - when he did the same in Dante's Dream, with Jane instead of Lizzie, people assumed painter and muse were having an affair.

Monna Vanna (1865)
Again, another one from early in Alexa's time with Rossetti, and I still maintain that the picture was meant to originally be Fanny, not least because she is holding a fan.  It's a great big blousy swirl of a picture, and features those spirally hairpins we love so much.

Sybillia Palmifera (1866)

Veronica Veronese (1872)
I've only put these two together because that is how they are hung in my front room.  It is quite common in Rossetti's depictions of Alexa for her to be a woman paused in the middle of doing something and often she is a woman with a talisman, an object of beauty to which she should be compared.

La Ghirlandata (1873)
In both Veronica Veronese and La Ghirlandata, painted within a year of each other, Alexa is a woman with a musical instrument.  Nothing unusual in that, Rossetti had shown Fanny fondling a Japanese stringed instrument in The Blue Bower.  Possibly he was likening women with sweet music, possibly he was hinting that with proper handling both made beautiful sounds?  Sorry, that came out much saucier than I intended.

La Bella Mano (1875)
Again, from the 1870s, Alexa is washing her hands while assisted by her little handmaidens.  In his earlier picture of hand-washing, it was hinted that the woman was washing away the man that loitered behind her, but this draped, Boudoir Goddess seems to be more glorious and regal than domestic.  Who or what is she looking at, I wonder?

The Blessed Damozel (1875-78)
I'll finish my suggestions with this massive picture.  Taking into account when it was painted and what else was going on in his life and art, this image should really have Jane Morris in it, not Alexa.  Yet there she is, bending over the bar of heaven, looking down at her erstwhile, living lover.  Up in heaven, everyone else is kissing and pairing up, but there she is, gazing out, all on her own, getting no kissing from no-one.  Blimey, sounds like every teenage party I ever went to.

Right, here's what I want you to do: Either leave your suggestion in the comments or send it to me by email ( or even leave it on The Stunner's Boudoir page on Facebook.  Which is your favourite oil of Alexa Wilding - is it one of these or one I haven't mentioned?  Everyone who votes will get put into a draw for a signed copy of my new book and the result will be revealed on 9th April, the official launch date of A Curl of Copper and Pearl.

I'll see you on Wednesday for the sketches and portraits...


  1. Lovely post .... and hard to decide. I think my favourite Alexa is Monna Vanna because I attended the exhibition at The Tate in 1984 where this one was the event poster, and I still have the poster despite moving so many times since then. Love the colours and the blousy clothes. All the best with the new book, it's on my 'object of desire' list! x

  2. My vote goes to "Sybilla Palmifera", one of my favourite Rossetti ever.
    "This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
    Thy voice and hand shake still..."

  3. I agree with you about Regina Cordium, lovely, but I'm going to go for Monna Vanna as well. I like the way her hands are all tied up in her necklace. Is it a psychological thing, or a bit of naughty BDSM? I enjoy that ambiguity.

  4. Dear Kirsty
    For me, it has to be Monna Vanna - I went to the Pre Raphaelite exhibition too and that image adorned the front of the gorgeous catalogue as well. I love the richness and swirling patterns and of course, the jewellery!
    Best wishes

  5. My vote goes to 'La Ghirlandata'. It appeared in the first book on Rossetti I ever bought. I had a fondness for redheads at the time and was reminded of a beautiful girl from school I admired from afar.

  6. Ghirlandata, definitly. The union of the red hair and the green is simply perfect. This painting is a dream.

  7. I love all of them but I will choose Venus Verticordia.

  8. And I've just noticed - it's the same fan in Veronica Veronese as in Monna Vanna, which I'd never have noticed until you posted them all next to each other. But my favourite is La Ghirlandata, simply because of the lovely colour - such wonderful deep, rich, velvety greens.

  9. Thank you for your post! My favourite of the lot would have to be "La Bella Mano". I've always had a soft spot for Pre-Raphaelite paintings featuring mirrors - the mirror reflections always add some new enigmatic elements that invite interpretation. In this particular one, I can't help but follow her gaze and wonder whether she's contemplating the scene reflected in the convex mirror. Is she looking at the four-poster bed, reminiscing? And her lips are slightly parted, as though she had been caught in the act of speech - is she musing aloud?

  10. A Sea-Spell! I think it's one of the most underrated paintings Rossetti has ever done, you don't really hear much about it. Combined with the poem it makes my favorite of his and one of my top 5 paintings ever. I have literally gotten into fisticuffs about it lol.

  11. I think my favourite is 'Sybilla Palmferia' It's not as busy as some of the other depictions of Alexa,and I love the colours used.

  12. I am partial to Veronica Veronese in large part alone because of a letter from DGR to Janey. He wrote to her that he'd sent away to Italy to request her olive dress "for that fiddle picture". The painting + the letter = in my imagination, a resonance with this sonnet. (not saying there is, just saying it makes for some fantastic melancholy) :

    Sonnet LIII: Without Her

    What of the glass without her? The blank grey
    There where the pool is blind of the moon's face.
    Her dress without her? The tossed empty space
    Of cloud-rack when the moon has passed away.
    Her paths without her? Day's appointed sway
    Usurped by desolate night. Her pillowed place
    Without her? Tears, ah me! For love's good grace,
    And cold forgetfulness of night or day.

    What of the heart without her? Nay, poor heart,
    Of thee what word remains ere speech be still?
    A wayfarer by barren ways and chill,
    Steep ways and weary, without her thou art,
    Where the long cloud, the long wood's counterpart,
    Sheds doubled up darkness up the labouring hill.

  13. Veronica Veronese for me Kirsty. I just love the green velvet dress contrasting beautifully with the rich red of her hair and luscious lips.

  14. Difficult to chose seeing them all together, but it has to be Veronica Veronese. The colours are simply stunning and I love the little caged bird in the top left corner.

  15. Such a hard choice, I have always loved The Bower Meadow, I have stared at it many a time, and it's the painting which got me interested in Alexa's character, but I think I will have to choose La Ghirlandata. It's SO beautiful, and Alexa is in such a lovely pose. It displays in one painting so many of the elements I love about Rossetti's art. Beautiful women, rich vibrant colours, nature, music, and this one has the fantastical element of angels. It always pleases me when a painting has an other worldly feeling, and this looks so utopian. I think it's a great example to show people who aren't familiar with Rossetti's work.


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