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Posts Tagged ‘A.S. Byatt’

Beauty Marks

September 1, 2016 | by

On Pre-Raphaelite muse Jane Morris.

John Robert Parsons’s photograph of Jane Morris.

A photograph of Jane Morris by John Robert Parsons, 1868.

“Defining British Art,” part of this summer’s 250th anniversary sale at London auctioneer Christie’s, included two lots by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ligeia Siren (1873), a nude of an unknown model, and Portrait of Jane Morris, bust-length (ca. 1870), a chalk drawing of the legendary Pre-Raphaelite muse—née Jane Burden and known as Janey to her friends—who, despite being married to trailblazing designer William Morris for thirty-seven years, was the love of Rossetti’s life. Only the second work sold (for the tidy sum of £602,500), from which we might infer that Janey’s strange beauty, more than a century after her death, entices at least as much as Rossetti’s signature. A few years ago, his chalk drawing of Janey as Proserpine, goddess of spring and empress of Hades, sold at Sotheby’s for nearly £3.3 million—double the presale estimate.

Rossetti would be gratified indeed. Proserpine, which he reworked in at least eight versions, was his favorite creation, the fullest realization of an artistic drive fueled, above all, by his passion for Janey. A. S. Byatt, in pondering Rossetti’s painterly addiction to Janey in her new book, Peacock and Vine: Fortuny and Morris in Life and at Work, also sees this particular image as the culmination of Rossetti’s entwined artistic and erotic fixations. Byatt, however, is disquieted by it. “There is something appalling,” she writes, “in looking at a whole series of Rossetti’s images, more and more obsessive yet essentially all the same, brooding, dangerous, sexually greedy, too much. The best, and therefore the worst, is Proserpine.” Read More »

On the Shelf

August 31, 2011 | by

A cultural news roundup.

  • Novelist and poet Susan Fromberg Schaeffer has died at seventy-one.
  • Ruth Rendell speaks out on health cuts.
  • Snape, the dark-horse winner of a Harry Potter popularity contest. This is controversial.
  • What to read when you’re sick.
  • P. G. Wodehouse: the movie.
  • Javier Cercas: “I respect music too much—if I write I write, if I listen I listen.”
  • Tweeting from beyond the grave?
  • Samples of Obama’s summer reading.
  • The most-wanted out-of-print title? Madonna’s Sex.
  • The first Kashmir Book Festival has been canceled amid fears of violence.
  • She Loves You: the Beatles and pronoun use.
  • A. S. Byatt: “I am a profound pessimist both about life and about human relations and about politics and ecology. Humans are inadequate and stupid creatures who sooner or later make a mess, and those who are trying to do good do a lot more damage than those who are muddling along.”