Vivien, Frederick Sandys
Link is to Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Manchester Art Gallery, which doesn’t seem to have an image online. The Study for Vivien at bottom is in the Norwich Castle collection.
In this striking portrait, Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederick Sandys portrays his companion, Koemi Gray, as the character Vivien from “Idylls of the King”, Tennyson’s series of poems that draw on the King Athur legend.
Vivien is one of the interpretations of “The Lady of the Lake”, who proffers Excalibur to Arthur, and is presented by Tennyson as the temptress who beguiles Merlin. The apple with which Sandys’ portrays her may be a symbol of temptation, carried froward from the story of Adam and Eve.
I admire the way Sandys has used the tilt of the head and the lowered eyelids to give suggestion of the nature of the character, and yet still retains his obvious affection for the beauty of his model. The sensitive depiction of the hands, particularly the delicate sweep of the left wrist, is just wonderful. You can see the attention he has given them in his study.
I also love the distinctive touches of red on the lips, earring, necklace and foreground rose, as well as the touch on the apple, balanced out by the complementary greens throughout.