• Four male figures and three female figures sit along a bench: all seven are full length nudes apart from one woman wearing a flowing robe. Their feet rest on a plinth on which their titles are inscribed: Somnus, Memoria, Morpheus, Amor, Voluptas, Libido and Mors. In the centre the winged and haloed figure of Love (Amor) holds a branch and, mouth open, appears to be singing. The figures wear or hold symbols which are related to their titles. Further attributes appear behind the figures and at their feet.

    Although concerned with conventional gender ideals such as female beauty and male heroism, the Pre-Raphaelites did, in many respects, depict unconventional figures in terms of their gender. Rossetti’s women generally had thick necks and square jaws, features associated with masculinity, and Burne-Jones’s male and female figures were often androgynous looking. This was certainly a feature of his work that was commented on when he started displaying at the Grosvenor Gallery from its opening in 1877. Some of Solomon’s figures were also somewhat androgynous, as for example in The Singing of Love.

    The Times claimed that there was something ‘unmanly’ about this work (11 Feb., 1871, p. 4).

    What do you think being manly meant at this time and why might this work have been seen as unmanly?

    Further Reading:

    Busst, A. J. L., ‘The Image of the Androgyne in the Nineteenth Century’, Romantic Mythologies. Ed. Ian Fletcher. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967, pp. 1-95.
  • Sir Galahad kneeling at the top of a flight of steps before an altar of a deserted chapel. in a wood at night.

    Much less has been written about masculinity in Pre-Raphaelite art than femininity but it is an equally pertinent, if less obvious, topic. In being drawn to images and scenarios of rescue, Pre-Raphaelite artists posited the man as rescuer. This is echoed by their preference for the medieval period when gender relations were governed by a chivalric code. Sir Galahad and Launcelot were therefore popular figures for Pre-Raphaelite artists, as in Rossetti’s Sir Galahad at the Ruined Chapel and Solomon’s The Death of Sir Galahad while taking a Portion of the Holy Grail administered by Joseph of Arimathea and Rossetti’s Launcelot at the Shrine of the Holy Grail: Study for the Figures of Guenevere and Launcelot.

    Saint George was another popular hero and the subject of several works by Rossetti and Burne-Jones. However, an interest in stories of heroism and rescue did not necessarily mean that Pre-Raphaelite protagonists were always conventionally masculine. Burne-Jones’s Prince for example in his Briar Rose series is more gentle and hesitant and than assertive and active.
  • Two full length male figures are identified by archaic writing as Joseph of Arimathea and Sir Galahad. A youthful Sir Galahad, in profile to the left, dressed as a knight with a crown on his head and a sword at his side, kneels to receive the eucharistic wafer and a ceremonial kiss on the forehead from Joseph of Arimathea who is standing in profile to the right, wearing a priestly robe. Around the haloed main figures are three roundels, their subjects identified by writing of the same style: the roundel on the left depicts Sir Galahad and the two on the right embracing couples; Tristan and Iseult in the top right and Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere immediately below.
    Looking at the images of Sir Galahad and Launcelot, how has the male protagonist been represented?
  • Guenevere is standing by the apple tree with an apple in her hand. Launcelot is asleep in the bottom right hand corner.
    Further Reading:

    Cheney, Liana de Girolami (ed.), Pre-Raphaelitism and Medievailsm in the Arts. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1992

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