Humorist and Pre-Raphaelite hater Joe Queenan recently wrote an article about the benefits of laughing at paintings in museums. Leaving aside the merits and demerits of his argument, I was interested by his singling-out of ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti's waterlogged maidens’ for ridicule. What struck me was that I was unable to identify which paintings Queenan meant, and after a brief search, it became clear that Rossetti didn’t paint any waterlogged maidens. Unless I am very much mistaken, which I’m willing to admit.
Aside from Burne-Jones, I couldn’t think of many Pre-Raphaelite painters who were consistently interested in watery scenes. But I did come up with these top 5 paintings. Which one do you think Queenan was thinking of / laughing at?
When I went to see Maria Rossetti’s grave in Brompton Cemetery, I was pleasantly surprised to come across the grave of Frederick Richard Leyland, one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's best-known patrons.
A Liverpool ship-owner and canny businessman, Leyland represented a new breed of art buyer. Like other rich industrialists of the era, he was as interested in cultivating a reputation as a tastemaker as he was in accruing capital. The art market changed as the culture of aristocratic patronage was replaced by the acquisitive ambitions of self-made men with money to burn. In 1891, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine noted that Leyland's home, cluttered with Italian Renaissance painting alongside Pre-Raphaelite works, embodied his ‘dream of living the life of an old Venetian merchant in modern London’.