Lady Lilith


Lady Lilith, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1886-1888, contains a verse from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer. Faust is a tragic play and it was written around 1806, roughly around the end of the time period our chapter covers. This is the verse:

 “Beware of her fair hair, for she excells
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.”

Although Rossetti does not portray the woman in the play,the verse he includes describes the fictional woman he painted very accurately. Lady Lilith depicts its namesake, the fictional Lilith, the first wife of Adam, created from the same earth as him, and a woman attributed to both seduction and the killing of children. She left Adam after he refused to become completely obedient to her and never came back after coupling with the evil, destructive archangel Samael. Although the verse Rossetti includes describes a character of Goethe’s, it can also be used to interpret the great power of Lilith.

In Lady Lilith, there are many things to notice, especially her long hair, which she is so focused on. Her intense focus makes us look back at her, but we realize she does not care about our gaze, she is too engrossed in her own reflection. Her skin is also very bright and her facial features are structured and perfect. Although her gown is long, you can see it slipping off her shoulder as she wasn’t associated with the best attributes.The room itself isn’t very realistic. Lilith is seated comfortably, but the space seems to constricting and has no depth or perspective. She is seated at an angle and very close up to us, emphasizing that she is the subject, yet everything else is faced stiffly another way. The nature out the window does not look very real either. Although Rossetti didn’t use much technique to paint most of the painting, he did make us realize that Lilith and only Lilith is the main priority, which is what she would have wanted. Lilith is indeed a narcissistic temptress, and Rossetti uses Goethe’s writing to illustrate her exactly.

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