Venus gazes out of the picture, wearing the draped fabric and heavy curls we associate with the Pre-Raphaelite style. Rossetti, her painter, has chosen a pose that reminds us of Botticelli’s famous image of Venus on the shell. The painting’s title associates the Roman goddess with the older Astarte.
In the background, winged spirits carry torches, and the evening star, Venus, is shown between the setting sun and rising moon.
Watching in turn, I was struck by the synergy between the figure in the painting and the onlooker who seemed to be communing with her. Her emerald skirt, pinky-red hair, bare shoulders and silver backpack struck me as contemporary versions of elements in the picture. She added another layer of femininity and threw another era into the mix.
My photo was taken in the Manchester Art Gallery and is shared for the Discover prompt: Below, which was the onlooker’s viewpoint.
About the painting
Astarte Syriaca (1877) is an oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The model for Venus was Jane Morris, wife of William Morris (her daughter, May Morris, was model for the left attendant).
Alternative title: Venus Astarte
Rossetti wrote a sonnet to accompany the painting, which mentions ‘Love-freighted lips and absolute eyes’. Quite!