The models for The Three Marys are a fascinating triumvirate of Pre-Raphaelite wives and muses. The central figure of Maria of Nazareth was modelled upon the pale beauty of the most famous…, Elizabeth Siddal. Siddal was a milliner’s assistant, who famously caught a cold while lying in a tepid bath of water as Millais painted her for his Ophelia of 1851. She had flame-red hair and fragile delicate facial features, which made her the epitome of the Pre-Raphaelite woman and all of the PRB clamoured to paint her. In 1860, following a protracted engagement, she married Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the present picture was painted by their friend Burne-Jones c.1862 as a celebration of motherhood; she is holding a white lily, the symbol of the Annunciation and it is likely that when she posed for the picture she was pregnant with Rossetti’s child. Sadly she died shortly after the painting was completed, almost certainly taking her own life in one of the most painful episodes of the Pre-Raphaelite story.
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- Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S.
- THE THREE MARYS
- watercolour with bodycolour and gum Arabic, contained in its original frame deigned by Philip Webb (1831-1915)
- 103 by 50cm., 40 by 20in.
- Source: Sotheby’s
- Link: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/victorian-british-l18133/lot.5.html
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For me, this painting is reminiscent of Greek Orthodox iconography.
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Steve.