Europe, United Kingdom, England
First floor: Victorian
oil paint on canvas
64 x 52.5 cm
Frederick Sandys 1829-1904
Oil on canvas
In the legends of King Arthur
Vivien was an evil enchantress.
She entrapped the magician Merlin
by misusing the spells he entrusted to her.
We know reviewers admired this painting
for the haughty beauty of the woman alone.
But the symbols warn the viewer of her evil nature:
the rose of passion, the apple of the Fall,
the poisonous daphne, the opium poppy of obliteration.
Here, Sandys has been influenced
by Rossetti's half-length portrayals of beautiful women
which place full focus on the sensuality
of female face, shoulder and breast.