The theological jargon uses the terms transcendent and immanent recurrently in aggregation. According to the perception of transcendence, God is above all in understanding and grasp of humanity, and His immanence means that He is plausible, perceivable, and fathomable. Transcendence and immanence are the ultimate ideas in religious and spiritual traditions that are also pertinent to sexual desire are transcendence and immanence. This essay seeks to explain the two terms concerning religious spirituality and sexual desire, referring to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Works of Art.
The concept of transcendence is the idea of leaving the physical world and entering a higher, spiritual dimension. Conversely, immanence relates to discovering the divine within the material world. Transcendence frequently links to religious and spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, and contemplation. These techniques try to establish a connection with a supreme reality or higher force beyond the physical realm. One way to settle the hominid condition’s constrictions is to realize the importance and meaning of life in transcendence.
Contrary to that, many see sexual craving as a modest, human, animalistic instinct. However, some spiritual traditions, like Tantra, see it as a way to reach a higher realization and face transcendence. This perspective views sexual desire as a means of overcoming the boundaries of the own ego and uniting with universal consciousness. On the other hand, immanence frequently links to discovering the divine within oneself and the material world. This is the ultimate objective of spiritual practice in many religious traditions.
Practices like mindfulness, appreciation, and service to others can help one experience immanence. We can sense the divine within ourselves and the environment by living in the now and developing a connection with everything around us. Similarly, some individuals view sexual desire as a means of encountering immanence. We can connect with the environment around us and have a sense of unity with others by fully embracing our physical bodies and desires. This makes it possible to interpret sexual desire as a means of encountering the divine in ourselves and others.
An Overview of The Pre-Raphaelite Movement in Literature and Art
The pre-Raphaelite movement began in England in the middle of the 19th century. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais were among the initial PRB members who worked to develop a brand-new aesthetic marked by heightened realism, vivid colours, and a concentration on natural and medieval subjects. The Pre-Raphaelites strove to produce realistic and naturalistic works of art, emphasizing fine detail and vivid hues. They frequently portrayed scenes from literature, mythology, and religion while paying close attention to the natural environment and employing authentic models. It was further renowned for its realistic and intricately detailed art. The movement’s artists eschewed modern art’s free brushwork and emphasis on emotion and atmosphere to produce technically proficient and authentic pieces for the natural world.
Dante Gabriel Art Works
British artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists who sought to produce work more in tune with nature and disregarded the established artistic norms of their period. Religious themes were a popular topic in Rossetti’s early works. For instance, his 1850 picture “Ecce Ancilla Domini!” shows the Annunciation, a religious ceremony in which the angel Gabriel informs Mary that she will bear Jesus. Rossetti nevertheless infused themes of sensuality and beauty into his early religious works. Mary exposes a sensual and feminine body, and the angel Gabriel is portrayed as handsome.
However, with time, Rossetti’s subject matter shifted to include more secular topics. He gained fame for his paintings of attractive ladies who frequently have highly stylized and elaborate hair and attire. Many of these women, including Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth, and Jane Morris, were based on his muses and loves. Rossetti frequently emphasized his female subjects’ physical beauty and sensuality while evoking melancholy and desire. For instance, in his 1863–1870 painting “Beata Beatrix,” his late wife Elizabeth Siddal is seen as Beatrice from Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” her eyes locked on a vision of Dante (Cheeke & Stephen, 211). The red poppy, which symbolizes death, and Siddal’s pale complexion in the picture depict the scene’s beauty and tragedy.
A more significant cultural trend in Victorian England toward greater openness about sexuality and desire can be noticed in Rossetti’s transition toward more secular and sensuous subjects. His portrayals of women have drawn criticism for idealizing and objectifying them as passive objects of male desire (Buton & Mitchelle, 31). The discussion must briefly return to the days of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848-53) and to the ethereal and emblematic vision that pigeonholed the poet-work painters of that brief era before moving on to an investigation of some of Rossetti’s works and exclamations that point to the almost concurrent emergence in his thought and art of symbolist preparation and a certain skepticism (Derrida & Jacques, 87). The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, Ecce Ancilla Domini, “Ave,” and “The Blessed Damozel,” among other significant and representative early paintings and poems, are just a few examples of Rossetti’s iconographic practice during the time of P. R. B. Because the dialogue must, by inevitability, be highly discerning it will metonymically concentrate on one, the central occurrence of this drill: the figure of the lily.
The specific gloss Rossetti gave the lily in The Girlhood of Mary Virgin should not overshadow the more nuanced meanings the flower has in this and other Pre-Raphaelite period literature. There is a good chance that you have already detected that the lily in The Girlhood of Mary Virgin has a stem with numerous leaves on top, similar to the one in “The Blessed Damozel,” and three blossoms (Watson and Alisson, 23). As aware as he appears to have been of the exegetical ethnicities whereby the “rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11.1) is applied, through the virga-Virgo pun, to Mary and the lily of the Song of Songs is understood as a pictogram of Christ, Rossetti likely anticipated his triadic lily stem as an illustration of the Virgin’s relative to the trinity.
Even from the lily stalk evidence in these early works, it should be clear that during the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood era, Rossetti’s use of the lexis of Christian symbols was both complex and conventional—that is, rationally rich and conventional enough to be easily understood on some level by a reader-viewer who is familiar with the Christian story, especially as told in the Catholic permanence (Bentley, 59). The fundamental purpose of the lilies in the Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini! according to W. B. Yeats, it may not be to allow “the more essential emblems, the women’s bodies, the angels’ bodies, and the clear morning light, to take that position, in the vast procession.” Christian symbolism, where they can solely have all their significance and beauty,” but he highlights forcibly the teleological context in which Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite art takes place.
By illustrating an “overlapping sphere, which synchronizes the fragmentary parts,” Rossetti’s paintings and poetry resolve the Madonna-or-Whore conundrum of creative female depiction rather than forcing the viewer to choose between these two opposing worlds (Rosseti, 418). According to Walter Pater, Rossetti’s concern in a merely material picture of the female form is misrepresented since “the two trains of phenomena substance and spirit play inexorably into each other” (Doan & Laura, 479). Unfortunately, much of the scholarship on Rossetti’s work misses how he challenges conventional interpretations of Christian themes and changes common notions of divine transcendence into a “new strain of mental and emotional activity within the pale of artistic orthodoxy.”
In this way, he does not just make the “structure of traditional symbolism inoperative.” Instead, he carries on the inherited meaning of religious symbolism by incorporating sensuous physicality and desire, which causes it to take on novel and unexpected forms. Arguments that Rossetti’s depictions of the feminine form are “unhealthily sensual” and devoid of an ideological framework disregard the ways that the “human sensorium” actually serves as a tool for discovering the spiritual and sacred through a “centripetal voyage into the soul of the self.” By the intrinsic duality and liminal location of his women as both subject and object, as well as the ensuing unifiers of flesh and spirit, Rossetti creates a dual vision, or self, in which the union of the flesh and the spiritual is made clear.
Found portrays a dichotomized ethical perspective in which the erotic and the profane are portrayed as opposites, seemingly at odds with Rossetti’s inclusive “thematics of plurality.” The two central characters, a sickly female prostitute and a substantial male farmer, are shown in hierarchical contrast, symbolizing the broader conflicting forces of profane sensuality and a new spirituality (Bass et al. 48). The farmer represents the pure and Christian pastoral a state devoid of the debased debauchery depicted by the fallen woman in her beautiful attire decorated with plucked roses. She is dressed in pure and virginal white. The characters are conversing in a transitional setting near the city and farmland during the dawn’s “smokeless resurrection light” and “budding morrow.” Due to the spatial ambivalence of their relationship, the accompanying sonnet’s octave’s hopeful language creates the possibility of a Christian restoration or resuscitation for the “love deflowered.” Also, the presence of a bridge implies a potential merger of these distinct urban and pastoral settings and the ensuing lifestyles they reflect.
However, the woman is positioned on the same diagonal line of sight as the floundering, white calf. Thus, she is affiliated with the animal intended for killings through a visual balance rather than between the male and female subjects, which would seem to be the main comparison in the painting. By drawing a parallel between the fallen lady and the upcoming commodification and devouring of the innocent animal, this connection undermines the stark and aristocratic antagonism of the pure over the profane symbolized by the man’s violent hold on the woman. The calf, positioned on the right side of the picture plane, can be interpreted as being related to the Christian and metaphysical concepts the morally upright guy represents, giving the animal a sacrificial meaning. However, the slaughter of the young calf takes on a troubling image regarding Christianity because Genesis 15:10 says that God demanded the penance of an old heifer. As a result, the religious components of the task take on an over-eagerness that extends beyond necessity and thus verges on the pagan.
The sonnet’s companion painting, Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee, also exhibits an aesthetic and pictorial divide that contributes to comprehending the female subject’s transitional and transitory status. In contrast to the exquisite realism and depth of the feast scene surrounding him, Christ is depicted in a classic and iconic shape with a flat and unstructured aureole emerging around his sharp profile. Because the icon of Jesus’ head is a positively charged gravity center, space is incorporated into the work as a distinguishing feature of sexual vs. spiritual values. Spatial recession, on the other hand, locates negative values.
Like Hunt’s picture, La Bella Mano employs a mirror to compress the visual space and emphasize its female subject’s liminal and transient nature. Although the mirror in La Bella Mano depicts the same interior area, its halo-like feature—rather than its reflection—evokes a sense of the holy. The mirror reflects what would be described as purely sensational and ardent imagery, placing the sexually explicit scene of a roaring fire and disorganized bed behind the woman’s head, grounding her grandeur in base sexuality. In this way, La Bella’s fragmented and liminal self is revealed (Mc & Jerome, 227). Mano’s female subject is saved from the sterile death of Found’s polar extremes by combining the impure and pure in a sacramental union. It builds on Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee’s introduction of physical components to Christian devotion. Rossetti’s Romantic Syncretism can take shape by balancing and harmonizing the sensual with the spiritual, altering the pictorial and poetic human-based discussion of the dual or spiritual self that should be included in the discourse surrounding the meaning of the meaning transcendence.
Historical Perspectives and Critical Approaches by the Pre-Raphaelite Movement
The pre-Raphaelite movement led to some historical perspectives and critical approaches like rejecting hypothetical pacts. The academic norms of their period, which emphasized idealized and classical forms, were dismissed by the Pre-Raphaelites. Instead, they aimed to produce more realistic, reflective representations of the outside world in their art. This method questioned the conventional order of subjects and themes in art. Romanticism also began in the Romantic Movement, which emphasized independence, creativity, and passion, and impacted the Pre-Raphaelites (Klein, 417). They frequently depicted passages from literature, mythology, and the Bible in rich colors and with solid emphasis.
Moreover, other perspectives like medievalism, symbolism, and social commentary evolved. For instance, the Middle Ages’ art and culture captivated the Pre-Raphaelites. They were influenced by medieval literature, Gothic architecture, and illuminated manuscripts. Their use of complicated patterns and attention to detail in their paintings demonstrate their interest in the medieval era (Klein, 437). In addition, they frequently employed symbolism to express meaning beyond their works’ literal representation of the subject matter. For instance, using particular hues or flowers can have a symbolic significance that enriches and complicates the work. Similarly, Contemporary societal themes, including the plight of the working class and the persecution of women, impacted many Pre-Raphaelite outcomes. They advocated for social change and critiqued society through their art.
In conclusion, since Rossetti was interested in examining the conflicts between the spiritual and the sensual, holy and profane, his artwork frequently features otherworldly and human figures. His frequent depictions of his figures in rapture or ecstasy imply a transcendent experience that transcends the physical world. When doing so, his artwork frequently features sensual and erotic themes, implying an intrinsic experience based on the body and the physical environment.
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Derrida, Jacques. “Limited Inc., translated S.” Weber, Northwestern University, Evanston (1988).
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