Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted The Bower Meadow in characteristic fashion — with attractive women with full and pouty lips, lush colors, and picturesque objects in the background. Though the title sets the scene, Rossetti focuses the composition around five female figures. These figures are essentially conflated into only two people, however, as Rossetti grants these women the same color clothing, the same color hair, and similar postures. Whether or not the picture's women are to be understood as five women linked into two types or two women in one long relationship is not the central point. Instead, the zigzagging composition of the women's gazes strongly implies that the brunette is far more infatuated with the contemplative redheaded woman than vice versa. The figures strewn throughout the painting allow Rossetti to tease out rather cleverly this tension between the two women in what might otherwise be an exclusively idyllic scene.

Questions

1. although there are only two women or two types of women in this picture, there is one more of the brunette figure than the redheaded figure. Why does Rossetti choose to do this?

2. There is a rather conspicuous orange leaf on the frontal redheaded figure's sleeve. What does this leaf symbolize?

Blessed Damozel

3. Rossetti's The Blessed Damozel also uses visual imagery in order to distort conventional notions of time. How do these paintings compare in this regard?

4. The Pre-Raphaelites often used very specific titles to give their paintings context. Why did Rossetti entitle the painting after the painting's setting instead of the female figures which dominate the composition?

5. Most of the woods in the background are lush, full trees. Yet one tall tree right in the top center of the painting is relatively bare, and stands out for this reason. Does this tree add any particular symbolic meaning to the painting?


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Last modified 4 October 2004