The character Ophelia written by Shakespeare (in Hamlet) inspired Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Everett Millais and John William Waterhouse. Ophelia, daughter of Polonius, sister to Laertes, and the rejected lover of Hamlet in the William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. Hamlet killed accidently Ophelia’s father Polonius thinking it was Claudius (his uncle who would had murdered his father). After her father’s murder, Ophelia fall into madness and died. The mystery around her death remains unsolved (suicide or accident). The most represented moment of the life of Ophelia is her drowning. It can be suggested by many ways : Ophelia can be depicted dead floating in the water, lying on flowers or picking flowers.
Photographers were inspired by the painting The soul of the rose by John William Waterhouse (1908).
Greek mythology inspired the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti with his painting Venus Verticordia. Verticordia (“the changer of hearts”) was an epithet of the Roman Goddess Venus. Venus was abble to “change hearts from lust to chastity“. In the Rossetti’s painting, Venus (under the features of the model Alexa Wilding) is depicted naked carrying an apple in her left hand and an arrow in the right hand. The apple refers to Eve and the original sin. The apple evokes also the judgement of Pâris. Zeus chose Paris to decide which of three goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. Eris, the goddess of strife or discord, had tossed a golden apple inscribed with the phrase “For the Fairest” into the midst of the guests at a wedding. Paris chose Aphrodite who offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta (Menelas wife). Indeed, Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. It caused the Trojan War. The arrow is the attribut of Cupidon (God of love and Mars and Venus’ son). The yellow butterflies on the arrow and the apple may symbolized the women inconstance.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted Lady Lilith two times with two different models (in 1866-68 with Fanny Cornforth and in 1872-73 with Alice Wilding). Rossetti depicted Lilith contemplating her beauty in a hand-mirror. This ‘Modern Lilith‘ contemplates her own beauty in a hand-mirror. The myth of Lilith came from the first chapter of Genesis. Lilith was the first wife of Adam, according to Judaic myth and is a symbol of power, temptation and seduction. It was a demonic figure in the ancient legends of the Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, and Greeks.
The red hair woman was the ideal beauty for Pre-Raphaelites.
Delicate red braids :
In the painting La Ghirlandata, Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts a woman playing a harp as two angels surround her, enclosed by vivid flowers. The main model is Alexa Wilding. Painted in 1873, it belongs to the strongly aesthetic, sensual phase in Rossetti’s later career. Between 1871–74 Rossetti produced several paintings of women playing musical instruments.
Greek myth of Proserpine (Persephone for the Romans) was painted by Rossetti with Jane Morris as model. In the Roman mythology, Proserpine (Persephone for the Greeks) is the daughter of Ceres (Goddess of agriculture ; Demeter for the Greeks) and Jupiter (God of the Gods ; Zeus for the Greeks). She is the wife of the God of the Underworld Pluton (Hades for the Greeks). She is the Goddess of the Underworld but also of Spring. Her attributes are wheat and pomegranate.
In the legend that Rossetti depicted, Proserpine was kidnapped by Pluto and lived without her willing in the Underworld. Her mother Ceres asked for help to Jupiter. He accepted that she could return to the earth, only if she didn’t eat anything in the Underworld. But she ate six pomegranate seeds. As a punishment, she had to live six months in the Underworld and six months on the earth (one month in the underworld for one seed eaten).
Sources : britannica, byronsmuse, mythencyclopedia, Vice, bl.uk, ex-libris, artcheologie.wordpress.com, libresavoir, larevuecycle, Wikipedia, Britannica, Pinterest, Christies, musee-orsay victorianweb and art.blog