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Picturing a World

Lady Lilith

There are so many ways you can approach this watercolor of Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (which appears in a recent BBC article, Femme fatale: The images that reveal male fears). Start with whether it fits in the long history of the mythological figure, Lilith, Adam's first wife. Examine the symbolism of flowers, comb, candles, red bracelet, etc. Ask how it compares to Rossetti's own oil version of the picture. Expand the art-history approach to examine whether it belongs with other 19th C depictions of women at their toilette, such as Lucy-Lee Robbins' Putting Up Her Hair, Mary Cassatt's Denise at Her Dressing Table, or Edgar Degas' Woman at Her Toilette.
Or, as a writer, consider it as the springboard for a story.

A woman gazes at herself in a mirror. She seems mildly, not wildly dissatisfied. She is pondering a question (maybe it's whether she is growing old; maybe it's what to do next in her life; maybe it's as simple as what to do with her hair). She is sensuous, languorous, at ease in her body, but not particularly interested in what anyone else thinks. She has surrounded herself with roses and peonies. They are pretty; they smell good; but she takes them for granted. The mirror on the side table reflects the stout candles and the green outdoors. She takes them for granted, too. Obviously, many other interpretations are possible!
So use her for a muse in a writing exercise. Stick as close to this image as you like or turn it into something totally different.
1. Choose an identity for Lady Lilith:
(a) an immortal;
(b) a 19th C human woman;
(c) a 21st C woman;
(d) ________.
2. Explain her name:
(a) she is animated by a spirit as red-gold as her hair;
(b) it's a stage name or an ironic nickname;
(c) her mother was a feminist;
(d) ________.
3. Decide what the mirror on the table reflects:
(a) the Garden of Eden;
(b) woods in the countryside;
(c) a tangle of urban greenery;
(d) ________.
4. Imagine the dilemma she is contemplating.
5. A second character enters into:
(a) her thoughts,
(b) your story.
Get going.

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