A review of William Morris: Textiles and Wallpapers

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This is a review of William Morris: Textiles and Wallpaper, one of 2 currently running exhibitions dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelites at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York City.

A couple of things to note about this particular exhibition. If you are expecting something on the scale of the previous Pre-Raphaelite exhibition that originally was at the Tate and then came to the US via the National Gallery you will be disappointed. There are only about 30 pieces or so with the greatest concentration on Edward Burne-Jones. This is not a complaint by any means, I just want to temper expectations for those who might be coming out of town to see this. I’ll be splitting my review into two parts: part one will focus on William Morris: Textiles and Wallpapers, an adjoining installation that runs until the end of July and part two will focus on The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design. I’m doing it this way because the Morris ends first and I really do think everyone interested in textiles, not to mention the Pre-Raphaelites, would do themselves a disservice to miss it.

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Shopping the Pre-Raphaelites: Parrish Relics

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Good afternoon! I hope everyone in the US is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend, those of you in the UK are enjoying your bank holiday and everyone else is just enjoying the (hopefully warmer) days. I am almost done recovering from a rather nasty bout of food poisoning and I hope to attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibit this week. While convalescing I wasn’t able to sit up for more than 30 minute spurts at a time which meant a lot of laying down, browsing the internet on my phone. During one of my customary Etsy run-throughs (I am slightly addicted to the site) it occurred to me that I might highlight some shops that are of a particular interest to Pre-Raphaelite fans. First up? Parrish Relics!

Parrish Relics is where Jen Parrish puts out some of the most beautiful jewelry I’ve had the privilege of seeing. Her work would be right at home in not only Medieval & Renaissance times, but the Victorian and our current era well. It’s timeless. Jen particularly has a way of working with stained glass that takes my breath away. She first came to my attention when I was watching Showtime’s show The Tudors and COVETED Anne Boleyn’s iconic B necklace. Parrish Relics’s version was the best I had seen (I’m not 100% sure if Jen actually did the jewelry for the show but I wouldn’t be surprised)  and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of her store. Jen has informed me that she did jewelry for a special Showtime did about the Tudors but not the show itself. Thanks for the update Jen!

I own two pieces by Parrish Relics, both bracelets. They resemble this (stock photo from Parrish Relics):parrish relics

With the words “Soar” on one and “Believe” on the other.

 

 

 

Some pieces that are of particular interest to the Pre-Raphaelite fan, all sold alas but you can get an idea:

Pomona

Pomona pictorial pendant, based on the work by Edward Burne-Jones & William Morris

Sibylla Palmifera

Sibylla Palmifera pictorial pendant, based on the Dante Gabriel Rossetti picture.

ophelia

Ophelia pictorial pendant, based on the work by John Everett Millais

I have been lusting after at this next pendant for months but it always sells out before I can grab it! YOU WILL BE MINE ONE DAY TUDOR ROSE *shakes fist*

tudor rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, this next pendant is still for sale! Hop on it! Pictorial pendant based on In Praise of Venus by Edward Burne-Jones:

In Praise of Venus

 

 

There’s many more different types of jewelry (I could devote an entire blog to her work with the Unicorn Tapestries) but you get the general idea. Parrish Relics does not keep a running stock so if you see something in the shop that you like, it’s best to pick it up immediately. Unless it’s a Tudor Rose pendant then you may hold off for as long as you like until I get one *grin* You can find Parrish Relics store on Etsy, at their blog and Jen tweets at @parrishrelics.

Reminder! Pre-Raphaelite exhibit at the Met

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Good Afternoon! Just a reminder that tomorrow is the opening of The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition runs until October 26th. I will be attending tomorrow and hope to post my impressions sometime this week. Also to coincide with the exhibit the Met is offering a series of 3 courses about the Pre-Raphaelites. I will be attending these so expect views of them as well.

 

 

I’m obsessed with making lists

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One of my bucket list items is to do a grand Pre-Raphaelite tour. Ideally I’d like to spend around 3 weeks or so traipsing around London and retracing the steps/homes of the PRB. To that end because I couldn’t find a list with all the temporary listings of Pre-Raphaelite exhibits, I’ve made up one. You can find it here. Please let me know if I need to add any or if there’s another more comprehensive list on the web. My google-fu has been lacking lately. Thank you very much!

The Blue Bower

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The Blue Bower (1865) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Blue Bower (1865) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 

When I was first tossing around ideas for this blog I knew a couple of things had to happen: the blog itself needed to be named after a Rossetti work, said painting would have to be the inaugural post and I wanted the subject to be Alexa Wilding or Jane Morris. Like Meatloaf says, two outta three ain’t bad!

The Blue Bower is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and features Fanny Cornforth, most famously the star of Bocca Baciata. Fanny had always been a bit of a mystery to me. I knew she was the woman Gabriel was involved with before he fell down the rabbit hole with Jane Morris (more on that in a later post), and I knew she was Bocca Baciata and Fair Rosamund but that was about it. I knew nothing of her life or how she even got involved with the Pre-Raphaelites. Luckily Kirsty Stonell Walker wrote Stunner: The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth to help. I highly recommend it (more on that later as well) if you’re like me and generally lacking in the information about Fanny* department.

So why did I choose The Blue Bower? Blame it on the hairpin in Fanny’s hair. There is something about that pin that I could not get out of my head and the more I thought about it the more I realized that the Blue Bower would work as a blog title. It incorporated the things I loved about the Pre-Raphaelite movement (Rossetti, the color blue, luscious backgrounds) but more importantly the name evoked visions of harmony, peace, serenity and beauty. All of those things I associate with the Pre-Rapahelite movement (along with lust but we shall cross that bridge when we get to it) so it seemed fitting to name my blog after that.

Let’s talk more about the painting itself. I might be committing PRB heresy but I do think this is the best picture of Fanny that Rossetti did. Bocca Baciata rightly gets raves (the colors dear Gods the colors!) but to me it is almost uncomfortable how intimate the painting is. Comparatively the Blue Bower seems as if we’ve just caught our subject in mid-play, with a light smile that seems to say “I cannot finish this song if you keep stopping me.” While Fanny’s hair looks untamed in Bocca Baciata here in the Blue Bower it seems to be at rest, perhaps a result of his waning affections for Fanny.

The background is something to note as well. Per the Rossetti Archive:

The picture is an aesthetic work, as emphasized by the background tiles (inspired by the blue and white china DGR loved and collected). Also notable is the fantasy recreation of a Japanese koto as the musical instrument.


One of my not so secret obsessions is Japanese culture and while there was always something familiar about this painting it wasn’t until I visited the Rossetti Archive that I was able to put two and two together. It’s hard to address specifically the nuances that gives me a Japanese vibe, perhaps it’s the flowers in the background. I’m not entirely sure what the varieties of flowers are, I think one is a water lily? Maybe that’s the trigger. I wonder if there is a comprehensive listing of flowers in various Pre-Raphaelite paintings. It would be interesting to see and maybe cross-reference them to the general language of flowers.

Fanny and I wholeheartedly welcome you to the Blue Bower. We hope you enjoy your stay.

*I really wanted to make a joke about folks lacking in the Fanny but I refrained. Mostly.