Thursday, August 19, 2010

jane morris - the muse

If you're looking for a short path to get famous maybe you never considered this, but hear me out: do you have no special talent, nothing you're brilliant at? do you have some unusual features that make you not beautiful but not ugly, just...interesting...well then you've got the basics for being a muse.
next step - find yourself an artist.
then get noticed through a bold act, something that will rock his world. after that all you need to do is act mysterious and play a game of love, deceit, jealousy and longing, maybe marry his best friend and you'll most probably get featured in his work.

At least that's how it looks like from a quick overview of the world's notorious muses.
'cause you've got to learn from the best!
From Dante's Beatrice to Gala and Yoko Ono there's nothing like an impossible women to get the creative juices flowing. enough joking... I am truly fascinated by these women that inspired such great works of art sometimes for years and years and sometimes not just one artist. I am not going to lie...of course I like to picture myself as one. But who wouldn't?

Maybe there's no such thing as a muse, just the genius of the artist in love 'transforming' the image of his beloved. 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' kind of thing.
But out of all the famous muses there is one that makes me stop being so sarcastic.

A study for 'Vision of Fiammetta', Dante Gabriel-Rossetti

I have an old time obsession with pre-raphaelite painting. An obsession that was reignited by recently seeing lots of the originals in museums here in England.
The idea of this post came to me after staring for hours and hours at paintings of Jane Burden, later Jane Morris, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Yes, I have a confession to make: as weird as it sounds, I have a crush on Jane Morris. More specifically on Rossetti's idealised image of her.

'The roseleaf', Dante Gabriel-Rossetti

I love her sky blue eyes, her full lips, her flaming hair... I feel shivers down my spine every time I see a painting of her. And I don't know how much of this I owe to the real Jane and how much to the genius of Rossetti. The relation between the painter, the muse and the painting is a fascinating and dynamic one. The muse does her magic on the painter and then he transfers his vision onto the painting. But from the moment the art-piece gets a life of it's own it starts transforming both the painter and the muse. I am curious what Jane thought of the portraits because in viewing actual photographs of Jane, it is obvious that Rossetti glamourised her a great deal. But she was a quiet, enigmatic person and her mystery lives on as the differences between the real jane and the ideal jane got blurred.

‘My most representative recollection of Rossetti is of his sitting beside Mrs. Morris, who looked as if she had stepped out of any one of his pictures, both wrapped in a motionless silence as of a world where they would have no need of words. And silence, however poetically golden, was a sin in a poet whose voice in speech was so musical as his – hers I am sure I never heard.’
R.E. Francillon, Mid-Victorian Memories

She was the daughter of an Oxford stableman, living in poverty when she was asked to model for Edward Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Morris. By all accounts, Jane was probably in love with Rossetti from the beginning, but he was already married. So Jane found herself engaged and eventually married to William Morris. After that she was private schooled and she became proficient in French and Italian, an accomplished pianist and extremely refined.

She continued to model for Rossetti and there are more than 20 famous paintings of her and numerous sketches so...I can only imagine the infatuation and magnetism that makes an artist paint the same woman over and over again. He painted her repeatedly until his death. And but for his paintings, Jane Burden Morris would be unknown to us. On the other hand one would say that without Jane Morris there wouldn't be the paintings that made Rossetti famous. :)
I'll have to think about this muse thing some more...

paintings source here
photos of Jane Morris here


  1. i want to be a muse too :) so interesting, thanks for sharing. it seems she is still inspiring...this time blog posts

    i love the last photograph of her...

  2.'s so true...I actually did a drawing of her as well!

  3. She seem like a woman who's always observing and had loads of things on her mind.


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