In the mid-nineteenth century an anti-establishment band of brothers emerged with new ideas, new values, and, a vision of beauty that has survived two centuries.
This vision was in keeping with their unconventional style – during the artists’ lifetimes, the images of women’ that filled the Pre-Raphaelite’s paintings were publicly attacked and deemed ‘ugly’ and offensive – but was this a vision of the future, of the look of things to come?
It was the slender physique, pale skin and long jaw line of Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris and Sophie Gray that transfixed the Pre-Raphaelite Brothers. These women soon became the models for some of British art’s greatest works, Ophelia, Beata Beatrix and Proserpine, to name but a few.
The resemblance between the archetypal Pre-Raphaelite ‘muse’ and some of our own British treasures is uncanny. The women that fill our screens and magazines could be the same auburn-haired women with protruding jaws, ivory skin and rose cheeks that fascinated Millais, Dante, Holman Hunt and the ‘modern Pre-Raphaelite’, J.W. Waterhouse.
Take, for example, the gilded locks of Millais’ The Bridesmaid, her porcelain face and rose lips look alarmingly like those of the award-winning singer Florence Welch, from Florence + The Machine.
Holman Hunt’s Bianca, here in steadfast beauty and serene Pre-Raphaelite poise, could be Emily Blunt.
Leaving behind the voluptuousness of Botticelli’s nudes and heavy limbs of a Raphael Madonna, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood redefined beauty as we know it. Evidently, this legacy lives on. But what is it about the Pre-Raphaelite beauty that lends itself so well to our screens and magazines? Perhaps it is the strong use of light that lent itself so well to the angular features of their women, in the same way stage lights highlight our high cheek-boned film stars. Or is it the delicate porcelain skin and rosy cheeks that translate so well onto the pages of our magazines?
Perhaps in the dramatic poise of Millais’ Ophelia, or the serenity of Beata Beatrix perched on the edge of life, there lies a beauty that communicates itself decisively in both art and film. There is certainly an undeniable romanticism captured in the tragedies of those Pre-Raphaelite damsels that appeals to the moviegoer in all of us.
To see more Pre-Raphaeline beauties on Artfinder click here.