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Maker(s):Beardsley, Aubrey
Culture:British (1872 - 1898)
Title:How Queen Guenevere Made Her[self] a Nun, drawing for an illustration in Le Morte D'Arthur (London: J. M. Dent, 1893 - 1894)
Date Made:1893
Materials:pen, brush and India ink over traces of graphite underdrawing on moderately thick, smooth beige wove paper, the sheet incised with a ruled line at the outer edges of the decorative border
Place Made:United Kingdom; England
Measurements:sheet: 8 7/16 x 6 9/16 in.; 21.4313 x 16.6688 cm; image (with border): 8 3/8 x 6 1/2 in.; 21.2725 x 16.51 cm
Accession Number:  SC 1976.54.385
Credit Line:Bequest of Henry L. Seaver
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

woman in dark hooded robe leaning forward reading a book on a pedestal, proper left hand on the book, near a window covered in trees, image bordered by entwined flowering vines

Label Text:
The famous Arthurian legend of the illegitimate love affair between
the married Guinevere and the knight Sir Lancelot seems lost in this somewhat somber scene of a dark cloaked figure. Their romantic affair cost them, and others close to them, dearly. What may not be as well-known is the ending to this tragic love story. Guinevere and Lancelot parted ways and both joined different religious orders to live out the remainder of their lives in pious penitence. While Lancelot’s amoral choices were easily forgiven, literary critics were not as lenient on Guinevere, whom they claimed to be “jealous and petulant, not repentant” and whose sudden religiosity they regarded as suspect. (hkdv - cabinet label 2017)

The artist Aubrey Beardsley, known for his ornamental Art Nouveau style and his penchant for lurid tales, must have subscribed to this interpretation of Guinevere. By encaging her in gnarly vines, making the scene quite claustrophobic, she seems dark and plotting in her voluminous robe, looking more like a black crow than a pious nun.

women; literature; costume; mythology

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