Category Archives: Miscellaneous

La Belle Burden – Jane Morris and La Belle Iseult

I’m pleased to be able to offer a blog post by a guest writer, Evelyn Luther, and hope you enjoy it! The subject of Jane Burden is particularly appropriate as it is 100 years since Jane’s death on January 26th, 2014.

imagesLa Belle Iseult is an interesting painting from a Pre-Raphaelite whose painting work is often overlooked. In truth, the paintings of William Morris arguably never had quite the substance of his carvings, illuminations, and craftworks – the intricately realised décor of the room in which Iseult stands reveals the true direction of his talents. Nonetheless, La Belle Iseult is a worthy work, not least in that it is imbued with much of Morris’s interests and emotions. Indeed, painting it was reportedly a difficult experience for Morris as he was crippled by his ardent admiration for the model. Jane Burden, who posed as Iseult for him, was the love of his life and he later married her in a move which would prove quite as emotionally fraught as one would expect from the romance of a Pre-Raphaelite.


Painted in 1858, La Belle Iseult was for many years taken to be a painting of Queen Guinevere. The lady’s queenly demeanour, sombre features, and Arthurian garb were considered in the context of Morris’s The Defence Of Guenevere – published that same year – and the conclusion was drawn that this painting must necessarily depict Guinevere in the height of her emotional turmoils. However, research has since convincingly argued that the painting in fact represents another melancholy Arthurian queen – Iseult, the lover of doomed Tristan. Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur tells of Tristan gifting Iseult a small dog, which she adores and keeps close by her at all times. The painting contains a whippet-like hound curled up in the bedclothes – a detail which argues strongly in favour of Iseult as the painting’s subject, as no dog is ever mentioned as the close associate of Queen Guinevere. Furthermore, the painted queen wears sprigs of rosemary in her hair – an age old symbol of remembrance – while gazing mournfully into a mirror upon which the word ‘DOLORES’ (‘Grief’) is inscribed. Clearly this is a lady lost in grieving memory. Guinevere, while anguished, never suffers from grieving remembrance, yet Iseult goes through such an experience for most of her tale as she remembers and pines for the banished Tristan. A saga involving adoration and adultery is a poignantly apt subject for this, the only easel portrait which Morris ever completed, given his later relationship with the model.

Jane Burden

Jane Burden, pictured here in the guise of Iseult, came from a deprived background but was possessed of a fearsome intelligence and vibrancy which clearly appealed to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She was ‘discovered’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti at a Drury Lane untitledTheatre Company performance, which both she and Rossetti attended. Rossetti was struck on sight by her exemplary looks, and brought her into the Pre-Raphaelite circle as one of his models. During this time, William Morris became deeply enamoured of her, although many believe that Burden had long ago lost her heart to the charismatic Rossetti.

Morris and Rossetti

Rossetti, however, was not a good choice of paramour. Not only was he engaged to Lizzie Siddall, he was a renowned womanizer, known to visit prostitutes at a time when the spread of venereal disease was becoming of great concern to the authorities. Indeed, the Contagious Diseases Act clamped down on prostitution with the much publicised intent of cutting down STDs in men (the health of the prostitutes themselves apparently not being of much concern). Jane Burden was no fool. Knowing that it would be a mistake to get too close to Rossetti at this juncture, she tolerated Morris’s bashful advances. Driven to distraction by this enigmatic, enchanting woman, Morris found the experience of painting La Belle Iseult both intoxicating and frustrating in equal measure. He is said to have written ‘I cannot paint you, but I love you’ on the back of the canvas. A year later, the pair were married.

Love Triangle

Jane undertook an education to bring her up to the standard expected of a gentleman’s wife, and she quickly excelled at all she turned her considerable aptitude to. Two daughters were born to the pair – Jane Alice in 1861, and Mary in 1862. For a time, Morris was blissfully happy with his muse. However, some speculate that Burden married Morris simply to remain close to Rossetti. Now that she was inextricably linked to him through bonds of marriage to a member of the brotherhood, she perhaps felt safer in embarking upon an affair with him. This view of things is perhaps casting Jane in too cruel and manipulative light – she was, after all, a worthy, intelligent and capable woman while Rossetti was a compulsive philanderer. Nonetheless, Rossetti at some point began a sexual relationship with his friend’s wife which simmered in the background for decades. Some believe that the two were involved even before their respective marriages. Most agree that the two were embroiled in an affair when Rossetti and Morris took a joint tenancy on Kelmscott Manor in 1871. Jane and Rossetti spent a good deal of time together at this house while her husband was away researching Icelandic sagas. The pair became extremely emotionally as well as sexually close – and they remained good friends even after their affair ended.

untitledTill Death Do Us Part

Jane’s relationship with Rossetti is said to have lasted until she discovered the extent of his drug dependencies – upon which she distanced herself from him sexually, although they remained emotionally close up until his death. By this time, any joy had left the Morris marriage, and Jane was later to admit that she had never loved her husband in the first place. The pair remained married up until Morris’s death – although by this time Jane had engaged in another affair with the political poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Jane Morris outlived her husband by eighteen years, dying in 1914 at the age of 75. In 1904 she was painted once more by Evelyn de Morgan. It is a striking portrait, of a lady elderly yet still beautiful. Her dignity and poise is almost palpable, yet there is something of a wistful melancholy in her eyes – an echo of the emotion she portrayed all those years ago when modelling as Iseult for the infatuated William Morris.


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Fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite Studies

University of Delaware Library / Delaware Art Museum 2014 Fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite Studies

The University of Delaware Library and the Delaware Art Museum invite applications for the 2014 joint Fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite Studies. This one-month Fellowship is intended for scholars working on the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates. Up to $3,000 is available.
The Delaware Art Museum is home to the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the US. Assembled largely by Samuel Bancroft, Jr., the collection includes paintings, works on paper, decorative arts, manuscripts, and letters, and is augmented by the museum’s Helen Farr Sloan art library. With comprehensive holdings in books, periodicals, electronic resources, and microforms, the University of Delaware Library is a major resource for the study of literature and art. The Special Collections Department contains material related to the Pre-Raphaelites, who are also well-represented in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection of Victorian books, manuscripts, and artworks.
Application deadline: November 1, 2013.
More information:

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CFP: Poetry in Painting

Poetry in Painting:  The Lyrical Voice of Pre-Raphaelite Paintings

An Edited Collection

Sophia Andres

Brian Donnelly

Contact mail:

This interdisciplinary collection of essays seeks to offer new insights into Victorian culture and society through Pre-Raphaelite perspectives captured in the relationship between Pre-Raphaelite paintings and the poems which inspired them.   Authors are invited to choose paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artists and their associates that have been inspired by poems, or poems inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and discuss the means by which the textual is transfigured into the visual or the visual into the textual.   The goal of this work is primarily, but not exclusively, twofold: (1) to explore the interpretive perspectives on paintings which poems disclose; (2) to examine the Victorian or modern, cultural or sociopolitical, concerns that inform visual and textual relations inspired by Pre-Raphaelite art.

Letters, reviews and journals may be used to convincingly reinforce the connections between poems and paintings.  Through a textual and visual journey, this work should reflect an innovative approach to Pre-Raphaelite art and Victorian poetry.  Of particular interest are paintings and poems which have not hitherto received substantial critical attention.  Since this interdisciplinary work will address both scholarly and general audiences, writers are encouraged to avoid scholarly jargon and lengthy footnotes.

The collection is an international and egalitarian collaboration; we invite scholars of any level or discipline to submit an abstract.

Abstract deadline: December 1, 2013

Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words and a brief CV to

Authors will be notified by February 3, 2014, whether or not their abstract has been accepted.  The deadline for the full length chapter, if accepted, is May 30 2014.  Chapters should be between 4,000-5,000 words in length, accompanied by an abstract of 200 words.

Topics might include (but not limited to) the following:

The Spiritual and the Material

The Past in the Present

Imperial Expansion

Historical Indeterminacy

National Identity


Natural and Supernatural

Rural Industrialization

Fantasies of Utopia

Social Changes

Psychological and Ideological Conflicts

Kaleidoscopic Visions

Music in Poetry and Painting

Rossetti’s Painted Poems

Psychological Drama

Transgressions of Spatial and Temporal Boundaries



The Pre-Raphaelite Shakespeare

The Pre-Raphaelite Dante

Youth and Beauty

Class Conflicts

Shattered Illusions

Romantic Longings

Promiscuous Eroticism

Gender Transgressions

Social Entrapments


Women’s Choices

Vulnerable Domesticity

Moments of Seduction

Dream Visions

Visionary Experiences

Preliminary inquiries are welcome: kindly address them to

Professor Sophia Andres, Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in Humanities, Department of English, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa, Texas 79762

Dr.  Brian Donnelly  Department of English,  University of California,  Santa Barbara, CA 93106

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Painting and Drawing Competition

To celebrate the Pre‑Raphaelite Society Silver Jubilee in October 2013 we are launching a painting and drawing competition.

Competition guidelines

  • First Prize £50.00 and publication as a cover of a publication of the Pre‑Raphaelite Society.
  • The work must be original, unpublished and relate to the Pre‑Raphaelite movement.
  • A title is required. The artwork MUST be A5, or able to be scaled down to reproduction in A5 size.
  • Send us a photograph of your painting or drawing with your name, address, email and telephone number, by post or email to One entry per person. Photographs will not be returned.
  • Entrants who are picked for a second round of judging will be contacted by the Society to send in their original artwork, which will be returned. The PRS accept no liability for artwork lost or damaged in the post. Under 18s must have consent from a parent or guardian.
  • Please include the title of your work, and a 100-word description of its relationship with Pre-Raphaelitism (e.g. influences and inspirations).

Entry Fee: UK: £3.50 // USA-Canada: $6 // Europe: € 5, by cheque or postal order made payable to: The Pre-Raphaelite Society.

Closing Date: July 31st 2013.

Contact: Chairman and Art Editor, Patricia O’Connor, 20 Hardy Court, Barbourne, Worcestershire WR3 8AT England

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A Pre-Raphaelite Cocktail Party

The Pre-Raphaelite Society has been enjoying the festive spirit early with a discussion on Twitter about #PRBcocktails, inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite cocktails event at the William Morris Gallery. These are the suggestions so far:

Guinevere and Tonicjohn_william_waterhouse_destiny

The Beguiling of Merlot

Strawberry Thief Daquiri

Holman Hunt Wallbanger


Annie Miller Lite

The Eve of St Angostura Bitters

Matthew Arnold’s To Margarita – Continued

Red (House) wine

Mai Timon of Athens

Ecce AnChiChi Domini

William Missouri Mule

White Ruskin


Mariana Slammer

Fiametta Volcano

Brandy Alexander Munro

Long Island Ice (Rosset)tea

Janey and tonic

Pink Lady of Shalott

Astarte Screwdriver

Beata Baybreeze

The Finding of the Saviour in the Shirley Temple (for those driving)


Proserpina Colada


Whiskey and Waterhouse

Bocca Bacardi

Burne-Jones Vesper Martini

Sex on the PRBeach

With many thanks for a hilarious afternoon to: @Keats_Shelley @Verity_Holloway @PoetSarahDoyle @preraphsrule @Lynn_Shepherd @LynnRobertsPoet @nouveaudigital. Many apologies to anyone I missed off…let me know.

Sarah Doyle, the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet in Residence, has written a hilarious poem about the cocktails! Here it is:

One for my Daydream, and One for the Ode

’Tis a night in December, at a swish cocktail party,

attended by such PRB glitterati.

The invite goes viral! Everyone Twitters,

we’re ready for Eve of St. Angostura Bitters.

For who would not drink away all of their cares,

aided by a jug of Acapulco Gold(en Stairs)?

Cosmo-solomons are flowin’, a theme is emergin’ –

who ordered The Girlhood of Bloody Mary Virgin?

We all raise a glass, for we’re excellent toasters,

before placing them back upon Our English Coasters.

A Mariana Slammer is fine on the mouth,

or perhaps you’d prefer a Margarita in the South?

There’s Pink Lady of Shalott, Chocolatini Godiva,

Holman-Hunt Wallbanger and Astarte Screwdriver.

Prosoperpina Colada, and Annie Miller Lite,

or would a bottle of Red (House) see you just right?

We move on to a batch of La Belle Dame Sans Martinis,

Bocca-rdi and Coke, chased by Isa-Bellinis

(Pot of Basil optional).

The party is swinging – indeed, who could say no

to a tempting White Ruskin or Fiametta Volcano?

Sex on the PRBeach slips down with ease,

all followed by snifters of Beata Baybreeze.

The buffet is served! The gathering begs

to be feasting on platefuls of Deverelled Eggs.

Who’s still feeling peckish? Here’s more nibbles-fun…

Christ in the House of his Peanuts, anyone?

A Janey ‘n’ Tonic provides some relief,

but whose was the Strawberry Daiquiri Thief?

Mint Julian and Madallo goes down well at Yule;

so, too, does a tasty William Missouri Mule.

Brandy Alexander Munro is tres glam,

and who fancies Bare Naked Lady Caroline Lamb?

Long Island Iced Rosset-Tea is a splendid exemple;

quite as good as Finding the Saviour in the Shirley Temple.

The Beguiling of Merlot hits quite the right notes,

while Whiskey and Waterhouse wins many votes.

Such drinkies, I yearn for (the Morrises’) bed;

I’m starting to feel Light (of the World) in the head.

Oh, I’m getting so woozy, my poem here ends.

Goodnight, guys. I love you. You’re all my besht friends….

© Sarah Doyle 9th December 2012


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Pre-Raphaelite Society position available

The Pre-Raphaelite Society Secretary

The PRS would like to hear from anyone who could take over this post from the end of October 2011. The main duties are to attend the five committee meetings held inBirminghameach year, and also the A.G.M.; to circulate agendas for these meetings; and to prepare the Minutes of Committee meetings and the report of the A.G.M. The Secretary deals with internal and external correspondence; and there are also a few other administrative duties. As one of the Society’s honorary officers, the Secretary has a free subscription, and expenses such as stationery and postage are reimbursed.

To discuss the duties more fully, please contact: Barry Johnson,37 Larchmere Drive, Hall Green,BirminghamB28 8JB (Tel: 0121-777-9235); or e-mail Michael Wollaston, using:

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The PRS is on Facebook!

We now have a Facebook group, which will help to keep you up-to-date with events, news and discussions. If you are on Facebook, please come and join our new group at

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