I have only just become aware that The Delaware Art Musem has placed online a site which very nearly renders me speechless (or typingless, to be sure): The Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art. The collection houses the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside of England, but art in its widest sense, including jewelry, pottery, and other ephemera, in addition to the paintings and drawings and poetry that most who are familiar with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood might think of. Enjoy the implications of that for a moment, let your imagination take wing, and then, look at the beautiful pictures of the collection.
I do not believe that a person is truly civilized who does not appreciate the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Only beasts and demons could despise such beauty, and barbarians who ride the former and are ridden by the latter. Let your eyes take their rest from the ugliness of the world around you, and enjoy these intimations of another, lost, world. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood attempted, in the face of a creeping secularism, to foment a return to a world in which the best of Christian symbolism permeated all, from wallpaper to earrings. Now their works are glittering reminders that touch . . . something . . . in us and remind us of a modern world that just might have been. There is a gentle melancholy to most of the art which I don’t think I imagine, but which may reflect the very Christian (one must specify “high church Anglican” if not “Anglo-Catholic”) disappointment with the late Victorian and early Edwardian ages: the latter the continuation of the former’s spiritual failures, the concretization of the capitulation of that spiritual war being found in the beginning of the Great War, the “war to end all wars.”
In any case, I’ve often showcased the poems and some prose of Christian Georgina Rossetti, sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the most well-known of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s artists. She’s one of the greatest of English poets, yet seldom gets the attention she deserves. Why? Because the vast majority of her work is explicitly Christian, and the modern litterati (mere barbarians, mind you) cannot abide it.
And whether you, dear reader, agree with all or any of the above or not, the images of the collection show us some beautiful creations sprung from the vastly inventive imagination and the skillful hand of humanity, and surely are to be admired. Enjoy.