Simeon Solomon depicts a passionate encounter, rich in color and emotion, in his work Damon and Aglae. The viewer sees the lovers at a charged moment. The two stand staring into each other's eyes while he reaches for her in plea or in passion, and she raises her hands between them, either to embrace him or to create a barrier. Solomon frames the picture so that their figures take up most of the space of the painting, drawing attention to their postures and allowing their realistic, warmly colored robes to fill the painting. The warm, rosy hue of their skin serves as a paler extension of the vibrant reds of their robes. The rich color, from their hair to the fold of their robes creates an urgent sense of passion, the pinks and reds giving the figures a vibrant presence, full of warmth, life and love.
The names point to characters in classical mythology, but they do not illustrate a particular narrative. The absence of a defining place -- the blue and gray landscape serves more to contrast and accentuate the warm glow of the figures rather than to provide a setting -- and the suggestion of emotion through color make Solomon's work a represenation of passion and love, rather than a myth.
1. Why did Solomon name the two figures? How would perception of the painting change if Solomon hadn't made the work about two specific people?
2. Swinburne admired Solomon's work, and for this painting, Solomon attaches a portion of Swinburne's poetry. What would Swinburne have appreciated or responded to in this painting?
3. How does Swinburne's poetic style compare to Solomon's style in this painting? Do the two men have the same objectives in how they want to affect the reader or viewer?
4. How does Solomon's work compare to that of earlier Pre-Raphaelites? What aspects of the painting does he owe to them, and what characterizes his own style?
5. What other examples have we seen in which a painting relies on attached lines of poetry to provide a narrative or explanation for the event depicted in a painting? This integration of arts also seems to extend to architecture's influence on the decorative arts. What are the implications of this trend?
Last modified 15 December 2004