Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Damn, youz a sexy chick, part two: Lizzie and Christina

First of all, "like" History's Hotties on Facebook. It's the least you could do to thank us for our efforts on behalf of your reading pleasure.

Secondly, I think Kate was on to something with her post about history's sensual women. In fact, suggestions to include women have been the most frequent ones I've heard from the surprising number of people who've taken a look at our blog. Granted, I am more interested in raw masculinity, so most of my posts will remain centered on that concept.

Okay, not that raw.

But. I can recognize a gorgeous woman just as easily as anyone else with high estrogen levels. We ladies know good looks and gumption when we see them. (How men claim themselves unable to understand which of their same-gendered peers are hot and which are not is beyond me. I'm actually not sure I believe them. As Kate once said (a few weeks ago, just before Valentine's Day), men are like "terrible puzzles from hell." They probably know full well which of their male friends are totally adorable and just refuse to admit it, to maintain that complicated mystique we ladies so stupidly find attractive.)

Anyway. I do tend to ramble. I apologize. (Only not really, because I like doing it.)

So, yeah. Lovely ladies. History's full of them. Kate's discussed some whose sensuality lay both in the physical arena and the I-am-going-to-employ-my-wiles-to-get-money arena. Gorgeous and impressively-manipulative women.

Because I'm a bit of an idealist, though, the women I find most attractive are those who were not only totally gorgeous, but who also put their minds and bodies to use for the aesthetic improvement of the world. (Rather than just the sexual improvement of rich men.) My favorite of these? Elizabeth Siddal and Christina Georgina Rossetti.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I'm a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelites. And both of these women played crucial roles in that artistic movement. First, Lizzie Siddal.

Wearing all this needlessly heavy fabric tires me out!

Siddal is best known as the model and muse to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and model to many of the other Pre-Raphaelites (all of these young men probably took turns with her; her heart, however, belonged to Rossetti).

John Everett Millais' "Ophelia," for which he floated Siddal in a bathtub of cold water for many hours on end. She became very, very ill after this modeling session. But Millais was right to make Shakespeare sensual like this. It's stunning and, frankly, insanely creepy.

After many years of pining after Rossetti, Siddal ended up marrying good old DGR (despite his affairs with other models). She continued to produce poetry and paintings, though none quite reaching the caliber of her husband's.

Case in point: Siddal's self-portrait...

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "Prosperpine", for which Siddal modeled.

When she was 32, Siddal gave birth to a stillborn child. And then she herself died, from a likely-purposeful overdose of laudanum. DGR blamed himself for his wife's depression and what was almost certainly her suicide. So he sat by her coffin and painted this:

'Cause that's not weird at all...

Even in death, though, Elizabeth Siddal looked gorgeous and sensual. She had a full head of red, curly hair, which came up again and again in Pre-Raphaelite poetry and artwork for its Mary Magdalene-ness. One of DGR's poems, about a prostitute named Jenny ("Fond of a kiss and of a guniea"), was even based on Siddal and her hair. In Victorian England, hair was kind of a taboo, overtly-sexual aspect of a woman that wasn't discussed overmuch. That's the weird thing about the Pre-Raphaelites: their simultaneous love for this seedy underside of life and traditional religious values. Check out any of their poetry or artwork, and you'll see that both are glaringly present.

Anyway, on to Christina Georgina Rossetti, sister to Dante Gabriel. (Apparently their parents were fans of the three-name thing.)

She kinda looks like a Hester Prynne-type here, but check out that sensual glare!

Christina Rossetti, like her brother and sister-in-law, dabbled in various forms of artistic expression. She was far more successful when it came to poetry, though. Christina never married, but her poetry is rife with overwhelmingly romantic lines:

"For love is both and both are one in love"

"My heart is like a rainbow shell that paddles in a halcyon sea; my heart is gladder than all these because my love has come to me."

(Read "The Birthday" or "Monna Innominata" for some of the most vibrant, heartfelt love poems you'll ever encounter.)

And, ladies, as we know, romance is sensual. Sensuality is hot. Thus, CGR = hot.

I am deeply considering this hotness of which you speak.

In her famous work "Goblin Market," Christina Rossetti describes in fabulously colorful detail the corruption of one sister and her subsequent salvation by the what many scholars believe is a passionate lesbian tryst. Seriously. Read the poem. It's difficult to miss.

Christina Rossetti was a dreamer, and put her faith above all else. If you look beyond that in her poetry, however (though it is impressive for its potency), it's impossible to miss her raw sensuality and desperate longing for passionate love. Her articulation of these sentiments truly are as hot as words can get.

1 comment:

  1. Pssssst... Proserpine is actually Jane Morris, nee Burden, the other main Great Obsession of DGR's life. (The man had insanely complicated and overlapping artistic/personal relationships, so you're far from the first to get some of the players mixed up! *g*) My favorite image of Lizzie by him is probably this watercolor, and I'm also quite fond of the most famous, Beata Beatrix. Curiously, although wavy or curly hair became inextricably a part of the "Pre-Raphaelite woman" archetype (and in contrast to the fabulous look they put on Amy Manson in Desperate Romantics, Lizzie's was straight. (Some images of her have wave in it from being braided wet.)

    "Jenny" was initially drafted in Gabriel's late teens, before he ever met any of the women (other than his sister) who would figure into his art, but is most closely associated with Fanny Cornforth, his most loyal mistress and the model for works like Bocca Baciata and the famously unfinished Found. Actually, if you haven't already featured Fanny (I just discovered your blog via this post, and haven't looked through it much yet), she'd be a smashing subject. Kirsty Stonell Walker's blog and biography are the best place to start.

    Nitpicking aside (and I'm a huge PR geek, so it most definitely is nitpicking, and should be taken accordingly!), thank you for a lovely tribute to two fascinating women, and I'll definitely look forward to checking out more of your blog!