Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "Lady Lilith"
"Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent 10
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair."
-Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Before there were iPhones, TV's, "Hover-boards" and all the other doo-dads that we are consumed by on a daily basis, people found beauty in the natural world. Since the beginning of history, humans have found beauty in flowers. So much in fact, that they began associating certain meanings with different plants and flowers.
If you stop to actually look at and "smell the flowers" you will be amazed at the beauty and intricacy of the designs and patterns which occur naturally in nature. Much of which we all miss nowadays while being too distracted by our digital worlds. Artists have been using this beautiful complexity in flowers to convey intricate and subliminal messages for generations.
The poem above is based on the famous painting "Lady Lilith" by renowned artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti was fascinated by a women's physical allure and depicts a legendary <em>femme fatale</em> who is a self absorbed enchantress combing her hair while seductively exposing her shoulders. In the Jewish Torah, Lilith is described as Adam's first wife.
“Beware . . . for she excels all women in the magic of her locks, and when she twines them round a young man’s neck, she will not ever set him free again.”
-Dante Gabriel Rosetti
In the bottom right corner of the painting, you will find a Red Poppy which is a symbol for eternal sleep and pleasure. If you look at the painting, really stop and look at it, you will feel what the artist is attempting to convey, which is the power that love and beauty can have on an individual. When I look at the painting and take in all of the details, like the hidden meaning behind the Poppy Plant so peculiarly placed in the bottom right corner I feel the entanglement I once felt for a certain lover. And then, the painting speaks to me.
All thanks to very small details provided by none other than flowers, which in themselves are beauty.
So next time you decide to order flowers for a loved one, think about the following: What would be more special, "Did you like your flowers hun?" or "Did you like your flowers hun? The Red Poppies are a symbol of how your love reminds me of a beautiful eternal sleep and the HoneySuckle represents how sweet your love is."
We all know what the response to the latter will be: "Take me now"
Don't just give flowers, give beautiful representations of how you feel. Each week, we will be writing a new blog post focused on Victorian paintings and the meaning behind the flowers entangled in the painting.
If you're curious and want to find out more here is a useful link to finding the perfect flower with a Victorian definition that suits your occasion.
See you next time!