Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
Europe, United Kingdom, England
First floor: Victorian
185 x 109 cm
Astarte Syriaca 1877
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
Oil on canvas
Astarte was an Ancient Middle Eastern goddess,
an earlier, more malign version of Venus,
the Classical goddess of love.
Above her head is her emblem, the eight-pointed star,
and behind this the sun and moon meet.
These are symbols of her power over nature.
In legend, Astarte's girdle made her an irresistible force
and Rossetti has conveyed this
by cramming the picture space
so that it seems as if Astarte
might stride out of the painting and confront you,
Astarte has idealised feminine features
that recur in Rossetti's paintings:
soulful eyes, sensuous rosebud mouth
and luxuriant, flowing hair,
based during this period
on the features of Jane Morris, his friend's wife.