Friday, 28 March 2014

A Curl of Copper and Pearl: An Extract for Wombat Friday

Hello Darlings, and welcome back on this rather busy week full of all things to do with Alexa. 

I thought I would post up an extract of the novel today, and I've chosen a scene involving Alexa and Fanny.  This bit takes place after Alexa's first visit to Kelmscott Manor, a place that Fanny was banned from.  We know from Rossetti's letters that Alexa visited Fanny after she returned and told her a few uncomfortable truths as to what was going on.  

When Alexa calls on Fanny, she is in the kitchen, making jam...

Like the golden sun, she sat at the large wooden table that filled the centre of the kitchen, her pale dress covered with a pinafore of stout cotton in a floral sprigged print. Her frame hid the chair, swamped in fabric from skirt and apron. She had a wide white bowl in front of her and a sharp knife held in her hand. From the left, her strong hand found a punnet of plums which she picked from. Her eyes flicked to me briefly as I entered, and she drew her knife around the fruit, twisting it and pulling sharply at the stone before depositing the flesh into the bowl.
‘How was Kelmscott?’
She sliced at another plum, her lips tightening. I drew back the chair opposite her, lowering myself into it slowly. Caution was always necessary with Fanny, and I considered that maybe it wasn’t the moment to antagonise her while she held a knife. That wasn’t why I was there anyway. I tilted my head in a gesture of boredom, making a face of distaste.
‘As you might imagine, Mrs Hughes.’
My admission drew a snorted laugh, her knife busy. I watched for a moment, the all-pervading smell of sharp juice making me feel a little sick. Her fingers were slick and shiny with the plums, the skins darkening with her wet touch, and the juice flowing down her fingers over her rings, under the rings, covering the skin. I moved my queasy gaze to the bowl of plums. Some were rosy, some a little green and freckled, some still with stalks and leaves. A confident spider paraded across the skins at the top, making his way to safety, but showing no fear as Fanny’s plump hand seized one of his stepping stones and whisked it away.
‘My mother used to make plum jam,’ she began, and gave a little smile. I nodded. She was lying, that tiny smile giving her away. She always smiled when she lied, possibly why I had liked her when many others did not. I preferred to see it as a joke she was sharing, a story, rather than mistruth.
 ‘I haven’t had good jam for a while.’  That also wasn’t true, but for want of something to say, I was polite.
‘Oh, my jam is the best.’ She smiled a wide, toothy grin, which I mirrored, helplessly.
‘So I’ve heard,’ I answered saucily, and we both laughed, the tension broken. She gave her head a toss, shaking back loose strands of crinkly blonde hair, but the movement allowed her to relax her expression for a moment and I could see unhappiness crease her features. As her head was still again, her smile returned as if it never left.
‘How’s the jam at Kelmscott?’
The enquiry drew an immediate answer from me.
‘There isn’t any.’
We sat in silence as she considered this, satisfied. The only sound was the knife continuously slicing through the plums and freeing the stones, a clatter as they hit the table and the soft impact of flesh in the bowl.
‘Would you like a plum?’ she asked at last, and I reached forward as she tilted the bowl. ‘Take the nicest, go on.’
My fingers hovered, then I gently grasped a cherry-red fruit, feeling the skin’s tightness as my fingers caught it. Fanny made an impressed face at me as I took the fruit, holding it in my hand like a precious prize.
‘A good choice, and just ripe. It will be no loss to my jam.’ She picked up a perfect little red fruit and holding it like a gem between her thumb and finger. ‘Some fruits look beautiful, precious, but…’ She slid her knife around the skin and I could hear the flesh crunch unwillingly. She hacked out the stone with effort and dumped the little carnage into the bowl, ‘They are all hard inside, even though they look ripe. Some fruits are glorious…’ She lifted a large plum, dark red like ox blood and the size of a hen’s egg. She rolled it expertly between her fingers, studying it, taking the powdery bloom from the skin and darkening it. Her knife slid in and the juice trickled uncontrollably from the wound as she rotated the dark form in her hand. When she opened it, it was all pulp, loose and generous and she picked the stone out, depositing the body in the bowl with a wet flop. ‘To what end? They all end up in the bowl and no-one appreciates the quantity they give.’
Wiping her hands on her apron, she gestured for me to hand over my fruit. Curiously, I passed it back and she slid the knife around the seam of the body with ease. She twisted it a little but it parted with such compliance that it seemed unnecessary and her thumb ejected the stone cleanly. I laughed, but without knowing why other than I felt very uncomfortable suddenly.
‘It’s a good one.’
I spoke just to fill the silence, as I took the cut plum from her barely wet hand. For a spilt second her fingers tightened on the fruit, just as a warning, but the barest amount.
‘Your plum is obviously ready for eating,’ she replied, and her smile did not reach her eyes.
‘Lord Fanny,’ I sighed, ‘pack it in. Anyway, my plum is my business.’
‘You mind that you keep it that way.’ She smiled and the moment was allowed to pass.

The book is available to buy from Amazon already, and I will be having a bit of an on-line shindig on 9th April to launch it.  

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Your Favourite Alexa - Part 2

Thanks for all the entries so far!  Such fun!  Now, today I want you to tell me your favourite sketch or portrait Alexa appeared in.  Again, if you have a different answer than the ones I put below, send it in.  On the 9th April when the book is launched I'll do a post and include any ones I've missed, as well as the favourites.  Remember, you don't have to nominate the favourite to win a signed copy of my book, you only have to send me an email or leave a message either here or on Facebook.  Right, onwards we go!

Aspecta Medusa (1867)
There are a few Aspecta Medusa sketches but I like the hurried nature of this, Alexa appearing on a piece of paper like a vision.  I feel that Rossetti was a wizard with chalk, able to make beauty appear with only red or black and white.  I love how Alexa leans with her tumble of hair, as if she is looking beyond the paper.

Alexa Wilding (1872)
This portrait resides in the William Morris Gallery.  An interesting fact that I don't think is considered very often is that Alexa spent two summers at Kelmscott, living in the Rossetti-Morris lovenest.  She must have also met William Morris.  What sights she must have seen...

Venus Verticordia (study) (1867)
Okay, I'm not obsessed with this picture, well maybe a little bit, but here is another version of Venus Verticordia and this time it's all Alexa.  Look at the beautiful trellis behind her. It reminds me of Regina Cordium and Fair Rosamund - Alexa appears in a little box, displayed as a beautiful specimen.  I promise I'll stop talking about Venus.  Okay, one more...

Alexa Wilding, Study for Venus
Beautiful.  It is a reoccurring part that Rossetti cast Alexa in, the woman of changeable heart, the goddess who will capture your heart.  It's not out of the question that Rossetti just used Alexa as a blank canvas (excuse the pun) to play a part without feeling anything for the real woman but then maybe not.

Alexa Wilding - Study for Regina Cordium
Back to my other favourite, this is a study for Regina Cordium and look at her eyes!  I have read complaints that Alexa looks absent in Rossetti's pictures of her, the vacant, self-absorbed goddess, disinterested and beautiful in equal measure.  In this sketch, she looks like a game sort of girl you'd want around.

Alexa Wilding (1866)
Apart from the hint of blue in her eye, here is Alexa rendered in red and black from 1866, a year after Rossetti found her.  We have photographs of Alexa from this time and the big lips are definitely an invention of Rossetti's artistic imagination.

Alexa Wilding (1866)
I wonder if it is because we don't know enough about Alexa that she ends to be viewed as the poor man's Jane Morris, not helped by the fact that she entered Rossetti's life just as he rediscovered his passion for Jane.  Her reign exists at the same time as Jane's, inconveniently so for biographers who would cast Jane as the sole muse of his later years.  Somehow Alexa is there from 1865 until his death, and I would be willing to argue that if we take it that Rossetti and Alexa did not have a romantic relationship then his art cannot be used to 'prove' his relationship with Jane.  Equal intensity can be found in his visions of Alexa.

Alexa Wilding (1873)
So here are my bevy of lovely Alexas.  Choose one of these or one of your own and send me your nomination to  Alternatively, leave your suggestion below or on The Stunner's Boudoir page on Facebook.  A Curl of Copper and Pearl will be launched on 9th April with cake and much jollity.  Hurrah all round!

Join me on Friday for an extract from the book...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Your Favourite Alexa - Part 1

Hello Darlings, and welcome to my competition!  If you cast your minds back to last July, you'll remember we had a poll to see which was your favourite image of Fanny Cornforth.  I thought it might be jolly to do the same with Alexa Wilding, seeing as she is the subject of my new novel, A Curl of Copper and Pearl, launched in a couple of weeks.  Not only that, you could win a signed copy too - control yourselves, such excitement!

A Curl of Copper and Pearl focuses on the madness of the Pre-Raphaelite circle as seen through the eyes of Alexa, an outsider.  Rossetti used her face to express his vision over and over again but she has always remained the forgotten muse.  I thought it would re-balance this terrible oversight on behalf of art historians and biographers if we had a vote on what was the most beautiful oil of Alexa and what was the best sketch or portrait.  Today we'll start with the oils, the major works, the famous stuff...

Venus Verticordia (1864-1868) 
Let's begin with the image I chose as the front cover of my book.  Good old Venus, with her boob out - no wonder she's popular!  Begun before Alexa had met Rossetti, it is undoubtedly her face added later, but as for the rest of her, it's a bit of a mash-up.  Absolutely stunning though.  Nice boob.

Regina Cordium (1866)
I've always loved the colour of this picture - it is the pale russets that are actually quite unusual for Rossetti.  She looks like the lip of a seashell, all pearly and blushed, with three colours complimenting each other: gold, pink and orange.  Rossetti had removed Elizabeth from this role to replace her with Alexa - when he did the same in Dante's Dream, with Jane instead of Lizzie, people assumed painter and muse were having an affair.

Monna Vanna (1865)
Again, another one from early in Alexa's time with Rossetti, and I still maintain that the picture was meant to originally be Fanny, not least because she is holding a fan.  It's a great big blousy swirl of a picture, and features those spirally hairpins we love so much.

Sybillia Palmifera (1866)

Veronica Veronese (1872)
I've only put these two together because that is how they are hung in my front room.  It is quite common in Rossetti's depictions of Alexa for her to be a woman paused in the middle of doing something and often she is a woman with a talisman, an object of beauty to which she should be compared.

La Ghirlandata (1873)
In both Veronica Veronese and La Ghirlandata, painted within a year of each other, Alexa is a woman with a musical instrument.  Nothing unusual in that, Rossetti had shown Fanny fondling a Japanese stringed instrument in The Blue Bower.  Possibly he was likening women with sweet music, possibly he was hinting that with proper handling both made beautiful sounds?  Sorry, that came out much saucier than I intended.

La Bella Mano (1875)
Again, from the 1870s, Alexa is washing her hands while assisted by her little handmaidens.  In his earlier picture of hand-washing, it was hinted that the woman was washing away the man that loitered behind her, but this draped, Boudoir Goddess seems to be more glorious and regal than domestic.  Who or what is she looking at, I wonder?

The Blessed Damozel (1875-78)
I'll finish my suggestions with this massive picture.  Taking into account when it was painted and what else was going on in his life and art, this image should really have Jane Morris in it, not Alexa.  Yet there she is, bending over the bar of heaven, looking down at her erstwhile, living lover.  Up in heaven, everyone else is kissing and pairing up, but there she is, gazing out, all on her own, getting no kissing from no-one.  Blimey, sounds like every teenage party I ever went to.

Right, here's what I want you to do: Either leave your suggestion in the comments or send it to me by email ( or even leave it on The Stunner's Boudoir page on Facebook.  Which is your favourite oil of Alexa Wilding - is it one of these or one I haven't mentioned?  Everyone who votes will get put into a draw for a signed copy of my new book and the result will be revealed on 9th April, the official launch date of A Curl of Copper and Pearl.

I'll see you on Wednesday for the sketches and portraits...

Friday, 21 March 2014

World Poetry Day : The Wounded Cavalier

Hello Darlings!  Today is World Poetry Day and so I went and wrote a poem based on one of my favourite paintings, The Wounded Cavalier.  When I was planning it I wondered whose viewpoint to write it from, so I went for all of them...

The Wounded Cavalier (1856) William Shakespeare Burton
The Wounded Cavalier

With scarce strength left sustaining mind and heart,
You move your hand to cover mine with care,
And slowing breaths bestill the lips that part,
To whisper ‘Falls and the day and one so fair.’

Against my hand, his dying breath inside him,
Against my breast, my enemy is spent,
Against my will, there is so much denied him,
My lips to his, his dying breath is rent.

Though enemies, our skin, our blood together,
Should bind us heart and soul, for now, forever.

And so I die, the pain is nought at farrow,
And here I fade, amid the forest lush,
This woman seems so moved at pathos’ arrow,
And casts a tear to fall in deep green hush.

If I had died in town, or at a table,
A wanton beauty laughing on my knee,
But this harsh death, as in the word and fable,
Has honour, sexless glory, destiny.

Stab my heart for cards, for pleasure spent,
Let not my last view be this angel bent.

So dies the last of England’s tragic folly,
And I shall not a weeping moment spend,
He dies among the ivy and the holly,
He dies so we our country can but mend.

She cries but I have seen too many fall,
She mourns her enemy but I cannot,
A man is dead, I know, but that is all,
My enemy defeated, may he rot.

The headless king can no more see the future,
Than this dead fool, returning now to nature.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review: Those Wild Wyndhams by Claudia Renton

If you have been following my blog for a while you will know that I have a fascination with a late Victorian social set called The Souls.  Imagine my delight when I discovered this had been published...

The problem I have always found when reading about The Souls is that there are so many people involved, both within the group and as satellites (or hangers-on - Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, I'm looking at you, you rat weasel).  I was curious to see how a book from a specific angle would manage the large cast of characters.  Amazingly, the Wyndham girls could be the answer as their lives touched upon all the others.

The Wyndham Sisters (1897) John Singer Sargent
Mary, Madeline and Pamela, the Wyndham sisters, were at the heart of British society.  Born 1862 (Mary), 1869 (Madeline) and 1871 (Pamela) they moved in circles that are familiar to us.  Their homes were furnished by Morris and Co, the paintings on their walls were by Burne-Jones.  Among their close friends (and possible lovers) were Prime Ministers and Irish agitators, but their politics never seemed to be entirely the point.  They behaved impeccably in public, were well read and not prone to the excesses of the upper classes at the end of the century.  So why were they so notorious?

Madeline Wyndham, aged 16 Edward Burne-Jones

The book reveals a world in flux much before the First World War, which itself would impact upon the Souls to a devastating extent.  Through diaries and letters we have access to the thoughts of these three women, all educated, privileged and from the establishment.  I felt this far more with the youngest sister, Pamela, who had access to the adult world through her eldest sister.  When Pamela was barely into her teens, her sister Mary was a married woman and new mother, expressing her frustration at the separate role she was forced to take by society.  For an active, social woman, becoming a mother meant removal and Mary wanted more.  To be specific, Mary sometimes wanted Arthur Balfour...

Arthur Balfour
Balfour, later the Prime Minister who hung Burne-Jones paintings in No.10, is a man of mystery.  His unmarried state was always a matter of rumour and gossip and it is widely assumed now that he was gay and/or a hamophrodite .  Mind you, he and Mary seemed to have gotten up to mischief, so make of that what you will.  He also enjoyed spanking.  The things you learn about former Prime Ministers!

Pamela in 1895 by Violet Manners
Pamela Wyndham

 Before 1886, the story is of a traditional society family and their friends, but the advent of lovely Laura Lyttelton's death, at the heart of their group, brought about a change.  The friends became insular, shunning others to spend time just talking and being together.  The impact of their loss was to drive them to become a clique, and society hated cliques.  The tragedy of 1886 brought about the most alluring and sneered at grouping of people, nicknamed The Souls in a rather disparaging remark.  It was said that all they did was sit around and discuss their souls, although Wilfrid Blunt (relative and hanger-on) said 'They read the Bible and they read the Morte d'Arthur in the same spirit.'

Lady Elcho (1886) Edward Poynter
One of the most beguiling things about the Souls is the way that they presented themselves.  The women led the aesthetic fashion (as seen in Poynter's painting of Mary, above) and garnered both admiration and hostility for their choices.  The flowing gowns complimented the Morris and Co interiors that they chose for their homes and their choice of painters reinforced their tastes to the public.  Mary is wearing a vivid mustard dress that would not have looked out of place on Jane Morris twenty years earlier.  Her sister, Madeline, shared Jane Morris' lover, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.  Lawks.  I'm suprised she bothered when Harry Cust was part of her social circle...Queue gratuitous picture of Harry Cust....

Swoony Harry Cust by Violet Manners
I found the attitude towards sex within the group to be very interesting.  Some criticism of them came from people who found their attitude to one another, between the men and the women, to be contrary and confusing - 'They were impossibly flirtatious with one another while publically advocating chastity'.  The men and women of The Souls seem to exist in a state of sexual equality to some extent, talking about serious subjects and speaking to each other with a level of eyebrow-raising informality.  At the same time they were keeping Mary and Arthur Balfour apart for fear of adultery and scandal, and were quite cautious of the notorious Harry Cust and his corset loosening ways.  It seems contradictory but possibly they knew how far they could take the flirtation amongst themselves because they all understood the rules.

Edward Wyndham Tennant (1915) John Singer Sargent
I wish the story could end before we reach 1914, but of course to understand the Souls, you have to follow their children into the War.  Sadly, you don't get to follow many of them back out again.  As I have said before, I wonder if the dip in popularity of Pre-Raphaelites after the Edwardian period is because so many of its young champions died in the trenches.  This lovely young chap above (Pamela's son) died the year this was drawn, together with many of his cousins and family friends.  In one of the other Souls biographies, they have a diagram which Mr Walker and I refer to as the Wheel of Doom as it has a circular family tree of all Souls, which suddenly comes to an abrupt end.  There is a terrible pathos in the sadness of the families, echoed across the country at the same time, as they had been so self-possessed and happy. The group that emerged in 1918 was a pale echo of what it had been and their influence was lost.  It's easy to see why Pamela's son, Stephen Tennant, went so wild with his surviving generation in the 1920s.

Arthur and Mary, 1925
This is a wonderful book, full of the sisters' own words from diaries and letters.  The anecdotes are wonderfully vivid and give an impression of an idyllic clique, wrapped up in each others lives and following a separate path from society.  It also gives a clear picture of three women who were outwardly model Victorian wives, yet wrestled with the same problems we have today: motherhood, love, fidelity, loss.  By centering the book on the Wyndham sisters, Renton has controlled the cast of characters and made it easy to remember who is married, who is committing adultery, who is related to Oscar Wilde's lover and who Harry Cust played naked tennis with.  I need a book about that last point, by the way.  Or a time machine.

I thoroughly recommend this book, it is a joy to read.  Buy it from Amazon here (UK) or here (USA) or at your local bookseller.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Last of the Pre-Raphaelites

I often think it's a shame that I don't live at the same time as my favourite art.  I am forever at odds with popular taste and all things modern.  My tastes are often described as 'easy', 'chocolate box' and 'morbid Victorian nonsense' (yes, Rossetti, they were looking at you at the time) and I sit alone sighing and weeping that my heyday of art was over 100 years before I was born.

Mind you, this week my thoughts on the matter were somewhat reversed.  As some of you probably know I was born in the early 1970s, really not that long ago (cough, cough), and it was only 15 years before my birth that the last Pre-Raphaelite died.

No, really.

I am talking about the artist who painted this...

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
This is an image I'm familiar with and the artist was Frank Cadogan Cowper.  His name is probably known to you, but what you might not have realised is how long he hung on to his vision of beauty.  For example, if you had asked me to date the above picture I would have gone with around 1900.  It reminds me a lot of Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's stuff, but this picture dates from 1946.  Unbelievable.

Rapunzel (1908)
Cowper was born in 1877 and studied at the Royal Academy schools, spending some time studying under Edwin Austin Abbey and beginning his long artistic career in 1899.  He gained critical success with this image below, displayed at the RA in 1901...

An Aristocrat Answering the Summons to Execution (1901)
I love the swagger in this picture, it reminds me of some of the famous Victorian images of Cavaliers (same cause and reason, the death of unrealistic, unsustainable romance) and is the perfect image for a young, cocky artist to create.

St Agnes in Prison Receiving from Heaven the Shining White Garment (1905)
St Agnes has beautiful clarity of light and the way the angel fills the space reminds me of Arthur Hughes' nativity scene.  It has a claustrophobia and beauty that is smooth, immediate and terrifying.

I have used his works entitled Vanity several times in my three years of blogging because they are just so damn lush, but they are a bit of a cheat for me because of the dates.

Vanity on the left, with the cushion strapped to her head, is from 1907, and the lass on the right is from 1919.  Is it my imagination or does the later Vanity look meaner?  I am going to wildly speculate but maybe the frivolous, personified by this young woman, seemed more corrupt and impure after the horror of the First World War. The earlier Vanity keeps a sly eye on her face whereas the later model is looking to us to confirm her beauty.  We are her mirror, the whole of society is there to tell the woman she is beautiful.  That says something rather modern and disturbing, if you ask me.

Fanny (1903)
 It is easy to see from Cowper's earlier work why he carries the Pre-Raphaelite brand.  His work is so reminiscent of Millais or Deverell, that easy smooth style of pleasant women and historical romance.  Even in unfinished form, his work is divine...

Study for Patient Griselda
Gosh, it reminds me of Waterhouse sketches.  Gorgeous.

Anyway, On through the early decades of the twentieth century, Cowper maintained his ideal of the mythic medieval, the beautiful, vain women, existing only to be marvellous to look at in beautiful landscapes.  These women exist contemporary to flappers, votes, motor cars and modern life.

The Damsel of the Lake Called Nimue the Enchantress (1924)

It seems impossible that such a juxtaposition would occur.  I adore figurative art of this time but compared to The Damsel above, something like Sunlight Nude by George Spencer Watson (left) seems so modern even though they were painted around the same time.  Excuse the rampant nudity, but they are both about beautiful women and Watson chooses a modern woman in a modern room compared to Cowper's maiden in her pastoral idyll.  

I cannot find any reason other than possibly the pressure of taste and selling, but Cowper moved towards portraiture and a more modern, yet cloying style.  I personally have no problem with his later works but in his obituary his later pictures were described as 'chocolate box'.  Mind you, that has nothing but good connotations for me.  Mmm, chocolates.  Have a look at this one...

The Ugly Ducking (1950)
I've always loved this painting which resides in Cheltenham, near to where Cowper died in 1958.  She's a jolly looking lass, isn't she?  She has the proud look of a young woman who has become a beauty in a frankly enormous frock.  She looks very traditional in many ways but that Neo-Elizabethan glory, post-war and post-rationing, shines through with a sort of pastel glamour that defines the 1950s and marks her out as being a modern girl.  Look at the difference between our Duckling above and these likely pair...

The Fortune Teller: Beware of a Dark Lady (1940)
Mr Walker gets the pleasure of looking after these two and he is not overly fond of them as he thinks they look weird.  I love this picture, the giant frilly frock on the blonde and the shifty look on her brunette chum's face.  No prizes for guessing who the Dark Lady in the title is.  That is a big ivy wall behind them, rather overbearing and threatening, but splendidly Pre-Raphaelite.  I love how that floral fabric in the skirt of the fortune teller is an echo of the dress of La Belle Dame Sans Merci and Rapunzel and Vanity's sleeves and drapes.  Over-sized stylized floral pattern must have appealed to Cowper as it was echoed throughout the decades of his art.

Frank Cadogan Cowper lived out his last years in Cirencester, just in the Cotswolds (and just up the road from where my mother in law used to live), where he died on 17th November 1958.  He left £4228 which was just over £80,000 by today's rates, which doesn't strike me as a lot for such a beautiful painter.  I certainly have never heard of an exhibition to gather his work up again and would love to see the scope of his unshakable vision all at once.  Yes, even the fortune-telling pair.  

He kept the torch alight so that we might follow it, the least we can do is see it all through his eyes.

Frank Cadogan Cowper, 1932

Monday, 10 March 2014

Spend Some Time with Alexa and Me...

So, what are you up to in May? 

Are you thinking 'Blimey, I really fancy going to Bournemouth and enjoying some gratuitous nudity! Oh, and some art history, obviously.'

Then your luck is in!

I will be giving a talk at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum on Alexa Wilding, mysterious muse and gorgeous enigma, on May 10th and tickets are on sale now!  

Venus Verticordia, as seen in Bournemouth
If you fancy spending £6 and spending some time with me in lovely surroundings, then give the lovely folks at the RC a call and come on over.  The Russell-Cotes is one of the foremost collections of nineteenth century art outside London, housed in the beautiful Russell-Cotes' home on top of the East Cliff overlooking the sea.  What larks!

To book tickets contact the Russell-Cotes on 01202 451858 or via email on  

See you there!  I will also be signing copies of my new novel too, more news of that next week....

Friday, 7 March 2014

Eclectic Eccentricity: Muse

One of the perks of doing this blog is that I get to meet some fabulous, creative people.  Just such a happening occurred recently when I was contacted by the lovely types at Eclectic Eccentricity.  They have recently launched a collection called Muse and thought I'd like to know about it because, well, the obvious reasons...

EE was established ten years ago by Lucy Crick and she and her small band of crafty types who handcraft beautiful collections in Norfolk (an eastern bit of England for those outside the UK).  I love the fact that their collections have themes that are dear to Lucy and her band, and one of those themes is Pre-Raphaelite art.  I was contacted by Alice, Lucy's sister, who wondered if I was interested in getting involved with gorgeous things.  Well, that would be a yes.

Mr Walker is going to love this image (he is the Curator at the Russell-Cotes where Venus Veritcordia resides...) and that is the point with the new collection.  I love it because EE know what they are doing with the art.  There are beautiful homages to Venus and Ophelia on their site, both in the photos and the pieces of jewellery themselves.  I mean, how can you resist this?

This one reminds me of both The Bridesmaid by Millais and Gather Ye Rosebuds by Waterhouse.  I love that their Ophelia pictures are in a bath, a smart reference for Pre-Raph types like you and I, plus I love the cloudy water, it looks so dream-like.  The use of the muted golds, butterflies, ferns, birds, and sea blue stones are so evocative of the riches of Rossetti and the visions of Burne-Jones.

Siddal Amazonite Necklace 
There are many beautiful reasons to buy pieces from the Muse collection, but I love the fact that I can buy directly from the lovely crafty people who make the pieces and they are Pre-Raphaelites fans too.

The complete collection can be found here and the pieces are as affordable as they are beautiful.  You can also take part in a competition to win a goody bag of lovelies including a signed copy of Stunner: The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth by me!

And they get the Wombat Stamp of Approval...

Big Alice and Ned Burne-Jones admire the new necklace...