Category Archives: The Lady of Shalott

The Waterhouse Exhibit, Montreal

Mariamne 1887
Mariamne was the second wife of Herod the Great, a very paranoid man. She was evidently so beautiful that Herod gave instructions that if he himself were to die, she should be put to death also, since Herod expected another man would want her once he himself was out of the way. He became convinced that she had committed adultery. In this painting, the Judges in the background have condemned her to death, a cowardly action in the face of little evidence, in order to please Herod. They may further have disliked her pride and outspokenness. Herod is portrayed as indecisive and agonized, wildly swinging from one emotion to another, as is characteristic of paranoids. Legend has it that Herod, loth to lose her entirely, kept her body preserved in honey for seven years afterward.

Cleopatra 1888
‘Where’s my serpent of the old Nile? For so he calls me.’
Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare, Act 1

The Lady of Shalott 1888
(Click on any of these paintings for a large view.)
Simply my favorite painting in the whole world. Standing next to this painting, the Lady stands out from the background almost physically, owing to the muted background being painted thinly and the built-up, almost sculptured paint on the figure. This painting, which is large, was to some extent painted en plein air in order to render the landscape more real. It must have been very difficult to anchor so large a canvas in even a mild wind. However, it is utterly real to look upon. Definitely worth the trouble. Some of Waterhouse’s pastoral paintings of later years don’t look like real English countryside. This one does.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses 1891
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The Waterhouse Exhibit, Montreal

The Lady of Shalott 1894
Geneia particularly likes this painting of the Lady of Shalott. “The Lady” seems the perfect metaphor for Victorian womanhood, cloistered in a domestic world, racked with longing for freedom and the pursuit of passion. This painting illustrates the point in the story where she turns away from the mirror, in which (like Plato’s cave dwellers) she turns away from the shadowplay of the mirror and gazes full at Lancelot through the window. The mirror cracks (click on the painting to see it better) and she begins to die from that instant.

St. Cecilia 1895

Hylas and the Nymphs 1896
Keep going to Older Posts. They’re not older. You’re only half way through the Waterhouse Pictures.
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