Pre-Raphaelite Reflections

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'How They Met Themselves', watercolour version, c. 1860-64 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ‘How They Met Themselves’, watercolour version, c. 1860-64

A couple in medieval dress walk through a gloomy wood at twilight. Suddenly they encounter their doubles, exactly alike in dress and face, outlined in the gloaming by some unearthly light. The man draws his sword in astonishment; his lover collapses in a deathly swoon, her arms outstretched mournfully towards her onlooking twin. Traditionally, seeing one’s double is an omen of death: perhaps the swooning lady shall die soon after. This wholly Gothic, supernatural subject by D. G. Rossetti merges Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics with another subject I find deeply, personally fascinating: the doppelgänger, mirrors, reflections, duality, and such like. I have been interested in the idea of the double for a long time now, and what was my delight to discover a Pre-Raphaelite work depicting just that!

Several versions of How They Met Themselves exist. The earliest version, a wonderfully atmospheric…

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