Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 46 x 77 in
St. Cecilia (1865-1940) is a portrait of chastity painted by John William Waterhouse in 1895. We will explore Her life and her renunciation of sin, the setting of her seafront garden, and the influences that Her example had on Waterhouse. Regardless of your view of art, Saint Cecilia is a beautiful work of art.
The painting of St Cecilia is one of Waterhouse's most famous works. The subject of the painting was Tennyson's poem of the same name, and the painting won him a medal at the 1895 Paris exhibition, which was attended by the Queen and the King. The artist's depiction of the martyred saint stayed true to Tennyson's description, but added poppies representing death and sleep. The saint was also a musician, and her image was reinterpreted in many ways. Waterhouse was part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and he painted many of his subjects in an impressionistic style.
Her lifelong vow of chastity
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, chastity is one of the seven holy virtues and is a vow to live in a marriage free from sexual intercourse. This virtue involves abstinence from all sexual acts before marriage and fidelity to her husband during the marriage. In modern culture, it has become synonymous with sexual abstinence, and most Protestant Christian denominations condemn the practice. In other cultures, however, chastity is a part of social etiquette, so a married woman must follow a lifelong vow of chastity.
The book explores the Greek Goddess of the hunt, Artemis, in an accessible manner, while offering perspectives from other Goddesses. While the book focuses on Artemis herself, other Goddesses also contribute poems, which reimagine Artemis' lifelong vow of chastity. The book shows that the Goddess is both a warrior and a devoted chaste woman.
Her portrait in a garden overlooking the sea
This work was painted during the height of Waterhouse's career, and it may have aided in his election to the Royal Academy that year. He was only 46 at the time of its exhibition. Born in Rome, Waterhouse's family came to London when he was six years old. His father, a minor artist, belonged to a wealthy community of expatriates. Waterhouse's father exhibited alongside Frank Dicksee, Alfred Gilbert, Stanhope Forbes, and John Nash.
The artist's collection was impressive. He devoted nearly two years to painting this piece, and it is one of the most important in the artist's oeuvre. While its aim is purely decorative, its colour is exquisite. The style of the painting is also direct and swift, and its effect is both ecclesiastic and decorative. The Henderson family remained among the artist's most important patrons in his later years.
Her influence on John William Waterhouse
The influence of Saint Cecilia on John William Waterhouse's paintings is largely due to the Saint's patronage of music. She resisted playing musical instruments to remain pure and hear the music of heaven. This poem by Alfred Tennyson portrayed Saint Cecilia, and served as a source of inspiration for Waterhouse. Waterhouse painted three similar paintings, The Lady of Shalott, a Poppy Garden, each inspired by the same 1832 poem.
This painting is notable for its symbolist element, which presents the Virgin Mary as a virgin of infinite purity. The luminous dusk-like effect of the flower-filled garden is also a striking element of St Cecilia. However, the work may also be interpreted as a blatant attempt by Waterhouse to compete with Sargent's widely acclaimed popular work. It is an excellent example of the'skeptic' romanticism that is so popular in our age.