Thursday, February 21, 2013

La Belle Iseult

Time to take a break from the princesses to show you...a princess.

But she's a princess of another sort. 

Hopefully some of you will recognize this artwork by William Morris:

It's called Guinevere, or alternately La Belle Iseult, and it was the only painting William Morris ever completed in his early days of knowing Dante Gabriel Rossetti and dreaming of becoming a painter like him.  It also commemorates his meeting his future wife, Jane Morris.  According to "legend," he was a bundle of nerves when he had her pose for this painting for him.  And one day he grew so frustrated at his (to him) unsuccessful attempts to capture her beauty, so he painted on the canvas "I cannot paint you, but I love you."

True or legend, either way it's a wonderfully romantic story.  And the image is an icon of Pre-Raphaelite imagery...the only painting ever completed by a man who went on to have arguably the most influence of any of the Pre-Raphaelites (in decorative arts, in writing and poetry, in socialist politics, and more).

So when my British friend, Bryony, showed me a picture a year or so ago of a statue in her living room she had bought years ago from Past Times, I instantly recognized the figure.  The statue was long since discontinued, but I kept an eye on Ebay both in England and the U.S., hoping perhaps one might come available through a secondary source.  A couple of weeks ago, Bryony messaged me to let me know the statue was up for bid on, but only to British bidders.  She offered to bid on my behalf and send it to me.  And that's just what she did.

So might I present to you...La Belle Iseult, the crown of my living room.  <3

It's a little hard to get a sense of scale, but she's only slightly smaller than the princesses drawn on the walls of the dining room, and she looks like one of them made three-dimensional.

The detail in the statue is extraordinary.  Observe, for instance, how they reproduced the pattern Morris created on her original gown:

And notice also the way one sleeve is flipped up, and the other is down, just as in the painting.  She wears a crown, adorned with a wildflower garland.  Again, just as in the painting.

I think my whole living room nodded in approval when she arrived today.


  1. I'm so glad for you Grace - she's just PERFECT for your house!

  2. ! <3 Love the flow of the form when seen from the side and the pattern detail. Your house looks very happy. :)

  3. Oh, how exciting! She's marvelous. One simply doesn't find such lovely, tasteful figurines often.

  4. Wow! Googling on a whim for statues of Jane Morris this one appeared. I'm impressed and a bit jealous, Grace:).