"She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
Yet almost in her heart would hold it back."
--Dante Rossetti, "Venus Verticordia"
She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
Yet almost in her heart would hold it back;
She muses, with her eyes upon the track
Of that which in thy spirit they can see.
Haply, ‘Behold, he is at peace,’ saith she;
‘Alas! the apple for his lips,—the dart
That follows its brief sweetness to his heart,—
The wandering of his feet perpetually!’
A little space her glance is still and coy;
But if she give the fruit that works her spell,
Those eyes shall flame as for her Phrygian boy.
Then shall her bird's strained throat the woe foretell,
And her far seas moan as a single shell,
And through her dark grove strike the light of Troy.
This poem is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a poet as well as a painter, and he wrote it to accompany his painting. Both the poem and the painting are entitled, "Venus Verticordia." For further reading, you can check out a great essay about these particular creative works, and the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, called "The Goddess of Love and Beauty." However, it is not the intent of this blog post to delve into the fathoms of art history, or any serious literary analysis. I'm really here to show you some provocative women.
More precisely: provocative women offering fruit.
Next week, a woman is coming to my studio to sit for her portrait. I'm very excited about it, because my client requested to be painted in a Biblical or Mythological manner, holding a piece of fruit, such as the pomegranate I recently painted, above. This is something new, that I haven't tried before, and I'm eager to give it a whirl!
So, in anticipation of this portrait-sitting, I have been preparing myself by looking at old paintings which feature this motif in a way that intrigues me. I looked at as many paintings of provocative women (and men) offering fruit as I could possibly stand. I'll share my favorites with you.
I started out by looking at all of the Eves I could find. I like this one by Lucas Cranach the Elder, because of the thoughtful expression upon her face. For this commission, I'm not looking for an image of shame or regret, but something else. A sense of female power, perhaps?
Rossetti's "Proserpine" at once caught my eye, because the sultry, glowering Goddess is actually holding a pomegranate, precisely what my client has ordered.
And here is this guy again. (You may recognize him from an older blog post, Men: Beautiful Objects of Humans with Feelings?) I know he's not a woman...but... it's my blog. I'm putting him in, so there! SIgh...
Finally, here is another painting that my client asked me to consider for inspiration, in part due to the model's direct gaze, looking straight at the viewer. This is Courbet's "Nude With a Flowering Branch." Not exactly fruit, but, close enough. After all, there can be no fruit without flowers.
I would like to appeal to my readers for some input. Which paintings were your favorite? Or maybe you didn't care for any of them? Why, or why not? If you have any ideas or suggestions as I prepare for this upcoming portrait commission, please share them.
Please understand, the paintings I have shared in this post are by no means the end of the story. Despite my admiration for Rossetti, Cranach, Caravaggio, and Courbet, I have my own agenda, my own ideas and feelings about about beauty, sexuality, power, temptation, and womanhood, which I can't quite disclose at this early, brain-storming stage. We shall see how things evolve as this project unfolds...