Veronica Veronese, 1872
In Rossetti's Veronica Veronese, the domestic interior serves a purpose, highlighting the process of absorption in interior thought that is central to the scene. The female figure, a pale red-haired beauty of the Rossettian type, sits at a desk upon which a book of music lies open. The woman fingers a violin's bow and strings absently, while staring dreamily into space. Behind her, a caged bird perches in a cage and sings. The domestic space that surrounds the figure is severely truncated - her little desk is pushed against one wall in front of her, and the bird cage creates another limit just behind her. A third wall draped with heavy-looking patterned fabric greatly reduces the depth of the room.
This claustrophobic domestic space resembles an extension of the woman's clothing. The figure wears an opulent dress of green velvet, the folds of which echo the drapery on the wall behind her. The colors of the wall and the garment are remarkably similar, heightening this effect. It seems Rossetti wishes to connect the figure and her surroundings, subtly implying the room is actually a part of the woman. This technique aids in the creation of a feeling of interiority. The walls and the woman are one. Nothing external to the female figure intrudes upon this private space, which is a prime setting for introspection and personal contemplation.
From Victorian Web
Lady Lilith, 1868
Lilith, whose character originates in Assyrian mythology, recurs in Judaic literature as the first wife of Adam. She is associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. The depiction of women as powerful and evil temptresses was prevalent in nineteenth-century painting, particularly in that of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Rossetti wrote a poem, which is inscribed on the frame, to accompany this work:
Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve),
That, ere the snake's, n'er sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright net she can weave.
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
Rossetti depicts Lilith as an iconic, Amazon-like woman with long, flowing hair. She idles listlessly in a richly decorated interior, dreamily admiring her reflection in a mirror. Her languid demeanor is reiterated by the poppy-the flower associated with opium-induced slumber-in the lower right corner.
Though Rossetti originally based the woman's image on his mistress, Fanny Cornforth, he later repainted it with the more classical features of Alexa Wilding, one of his favored models at the time. Rosetti's watercolor replica of this painting, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, retains the more sensual features of the original model.