A Nightmare
A Nightmare

Hidden Meanings
Hidden Meanings

The Pre-Raphaelite Portrait


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Sandys and the Pre-Raphaelites

Femmes Fatales

Once the PRB had disbanded in the 1850s, artists such as Rossetti and Sandys began to develop a slightly different style of painting which was also called ‘Pre-Raphaelite’. They began to paint pictures of single female figures, usually tragic heroines from myths and legends, possibly dangerous to men but always very, very beautiful.

This painting is called ‘Valkyrie’ and was painted in 1868. In Norse legend the god of death, Odin, had nine handmaidens or Valkyries who helped him select which of the men slain in battle would enter Valhalla. Valkyries were therefore figures of danger and death, feared by men.

Sandys has used Pre-Raphaelite principles of realistic detail and symbolism in painting this picture but wants us to focus mainly on the figure of the beautiful Valkyrie. She is shown as a rather lonely and tragic figure, alone on the hillside with only the raven, a symbol of death, to talk to.

This new style looks towards his later paintings, such as ‘Helen of Troy’ and ‘Medea’, where he paints hardly any details other than the face of the female figure.

Text ©
Norwich Castle Museum
& Art Gallery

Image ©
Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead