Andromache + Propaganda

This piece– “Andromache in Captivity”–is a reference to the character Andromache from Greek mythology.  After Troy fell to the Greeks, Neoptolemus forcibly takes Andromache as his concubine, enslaves her brother, and murders her child.  This image depicts Andromache in the aftermath of the Trojan War, when she is living as a captive in a foreign land.

In the image, Andromache’s suffering at the hands of her captor is being used as a propaganda tool.  In colored versions of the art piece, Andromache’s skin is quite pale, in contrast to the darker olive and brown tones of the people in the street.  Additionally, she is dressed in black clothing (which for Victorians signified deep mourning) in contrast with the bright robes of her captors.   Andromache is mourning the loss of her home, her family, and likely her freedom (or purity, perhaps), while her captors celebrate and debauch themselves in the streets.

Furthermore, Andromache has been painted as the Western victim of a decadent and savage society. Notice that the other people in the image show lots of skin (some are even nude), while Andromache is covered head to foot.  By subtly contrasting color of textiles and fullness of cover, the painter implies that Andromache is pure while her captors (and their women) are less civilized and more savage.  When looking at the painting, it becomes clear that many of the figures, especially the women, appear to be watching Andromache.  Their stares indicate that Andromache is merely an object or a spectacle, underscoring her lack of agency and utter powerlessness.

Additionally, fears that European women would be kidnapped and raped by foreign men played a large role in the justification and the proliferation of colonialism.  Artwork such as this fuels the notion that foreign cultures (here, the Greeks) pose a danger to white, Western women and ought to be treated as a threat.  Of course, this justification of colonialism is ironic, because colonizers posed a significant danger to foreign women.  Indeed, fears of foreign men raping white women were weaponized by colonizers to justify the colonial mission, which often included raping foreign women with impunity.  Analyzing images, such as Andromache in Captivity, illuminate the ways in which colonialism was represented and justified in art and culture, and can be helpful in understanding the role of art in shaping and circulating the (narrow) view of foreign cultures.


The Pleasure in Danger

I was particularly drawn to the overtly sexual Salammbo image in the Trout Gallery and how it actually seemed very similar to the cover photo on Christina Rossetti’s children’s poem Goblin Market. Salammbo shows a luminous, white woman, naked except for a snake draped and intertwined around her body. The snake seems locked around her torso, ultimately in control, yet the woman has a look of pleasure on her face. A man looks on from a shaded corner, playing an instrument that may tame the snake and the woman. Similar to this, the cover for Goblin Market depicts a young, pale woman, being crowded by grimy goblins. She wears a white dress that blends in with her skin and serves to accentuate her figure. The goblins play the same role as the snake in the Salammbo engraving as they hold the woman in place and drape themselves over her body. The woman, though in a seemingly compromising position, does not appear upset, and instead looks longingly into the distance.

When reading The Goblin Market it became most interesting to me that forces of nature control these two women in the images. In Rossetti’s poem, Laura, one of the sisters in the story, is drawn to these goblin men selling luscious fruits and is described as having “stretched her gleaming neck” towards them and their fruits (Rossetti 3). Once she gives a locket of her golden hair to them (literally giving a piece of her body over to them) she devourers the fruit and “sucked and sucked and sucked the more / Fruits which that unknown orchard bore” (Rossetti 4). She enjoys the fruit and giving in to her desire, even though she knows it is wrong. Similarly, the woman in Salammbo looks to be in bliss despite the snake and on-looking man. In both cases, natural elements, whether it be fruit or animals, overtake the women as men (male goblins counted) watch on. Goblin Market is meant to be a warning against engaging with forbidden temptations, yet the text shows a woman receiving some amount of ecstasy from it. The Salammbo image also serves to warn the viewer of the exotic snake and creepy man, yet lures the viewer in to the women with the look of pleasure on her face. In this way, it seems like both instances are overtly showing exoticism as dangerous and seductive, yet also proving the pleasure that can be taken from engaging with these exotic experiences. If these exotic experiences can be replaced with sexuality, a type of danger and otherness to those who want to keep up certain appearances in the Victorian era, the two sources might show a hidden look into the joys of engaging with forbidden sexual acts or sexuality.


Joseph Marie Augustin Ferrier, Gabrial. Salammbo. 1889. Trout Gallery, Carlisle. Web. 3 Nov. 2016.

Rossetti, Christina. Goblin Market and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

"Salammbo" (1889) by Gabrial Ferrier, etching
“Salammbo” (1889) by Gabrial Ferrier, etching

Orientals and Goblin Men


During our recent visit to the Trout Gallery, the image that intrigued me the most was the one entitled Salammbo.  In this image, a pale naked woman is lying across a bed while being entangled by a giant snake.  Off to the side, a fully clothed, swarthy looking man conceals himself in the shadows, starting at her ominously while playing his musical instrument.  The setting appears to be in an foreign land due to the black snake, the apparel of the swarthy man, and the pictures on the wall that resemble ancient Assyrian engravings.  While examining this image, two things come to mind: an obvious sexual tone and exotic themes.

The sexual tone is pretty evident due to the nudity of the woman, the snake (a phallic symbol) being wrapped around her, and her suggestive body language; she does not appear to be attempting to fight off the snake since her right arm is thrown over head and because of her closed eyes and pleasurable facial expression.  In terms of exoticism, there are certain aspects of the setting that make the image exotic such as the snake, the swarthy man, and the wall engravings.  Both the giant black snake and the Assyrian images are certainly not from England, or from the West in general.  The clothing and dark skin of the man seem to indicate that he is also non-European.  I also interpreted the setting of the image to be an intentional implication of orientalism since all the foreign objects are displayed in a bizarre and sexual way that implies that it is a stereotypical critique of the East.  A Westerner would probably view the image and think, “This setting is obviously foreign!  Who else but the orientals would lie with wild beasts in a strange room while others look on?”

The sexual and exotic themes of Salammbo reminded me of Laura and Lizzie’s encounter with the goblin men in Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market.  When Laura buys fruit from the goblins, the language seems overtly sexual.  Her consumption of the fruit is described as thus: she “sucked their fruit globes fair or red…she sucked and sucked and sucked the more, fruits which that unknown orchard bore, she sucked until her lips were sore” (Rossetti 4).  The instance in which the goblins swarm and try to force feed Lizzie can also be interpreted as being sexual because the scene eerily mirrors a gang bang/orgy since she “would not open lip from lip lets they should cram a mouthful in: but laughed…to feel the drip of juice that syrupped all her face…and streaked her neck” (Rossetti 12).

Meanwhile, the goblin men are described as possibly being foreign since Laura asks the question, “Who knows upon what soil they fed their hungry thirsty roots?” (Rossetti 2), hinting that the goblins are from other lands or “soils.”  Either way, the goblins men are clearly not human and are strange, which is similar to the exotic themes of Salammbo.  By being foreign like the figures of Salammbo, the goblins are portrayed in a dangerous, bizarre, and “sexual” manner.  The woman in Salammbo lies with a snake, a dangerous animal, and the goblin men, who are vicious and animal-like, have a “sexual” encounter with Laura and Lizzie.  The goblins are therefore outsiders who cannot be trusted by the sisters, much like how Westerners of the Victorian Era deemed foreigners such as Asians as “orientals”, strange violent folk from the edges of the world.     


Beauty & The Beast: Looking at the Use of Sexual Assault in a Narrative

"Salammbo" (1889) by Gabrial Ferrier
“Salammbo” (1889) by Gabrial Ferrier (Image provided by Dickinson College Trout Gallery)
"The Goblin Market" (1933) by Arthur Rackham
“The Goblin Market” (1933) by Arthur Rackham (Image provided by The British Library)

Many works of art and literature from the Victorian period, in particular illustrations for children’s novels, represent a method used to justify colonialism or at least xenophobia. Arthur Rackham’s 1933 (while not Victorian, it draws heavily on the text) illustration of Christina Rossetti’s poem “The Goblin Market” is one such example. He depicts a young girl, Lizzie, moments into her assault by the goblin merchants, depicted as grotesque anthropomorphic creatures that attempt to force the girl to partake of their fruit. The goblin merchants have a mystifying and almost hypnotic air about them, as Lizzie’s sister Laura has already fallen prey to them.

Another illustration that portrays the entrancement of a maiden and a beast (or at least can be interpreted that way through the Victorian male gaze) is Gabrial Ferrier’s 1889 print Salammbo. Beasts enwrap the titular character, like Lizzie, in this case a black serpent that coils around her frame. Her pale and nude figure is exposed in what can be seen as a sexualized, yet relaxed, position. This is not the case with Lizzie, as she is clearly distressed and afraid as the goblin merchants swarm around her. Thus the question I ask is why use these sexualized images and metaphors with animals, in particular portraying them as powerful and mystifying figures?

Colonialism is a part of the answer, as you can distance other people and cultures by portraying them as animals, making it easier to justify colonizing them or at least fearing them. Combining this racism and xenophobia with sexism further complicates the images, because while the stories to have sexual tones (and in the case of Rossetti’s story it has a moral lesson), strange creatures assaulting women and young girls further enforces the authority of an Anglo-Saxon man. However, if the concept is to justify colonizing and “improving” the lives of people in other cultures then why portray them as powerful? Part of this has to do with the gender of the creator/illustrator.

Christina Rossetti’s poem, while it does carry racial overtones, presents a moral tale for young girls regarding relationships, how the bonds of sisterhood are everlasting and can withstand the forces and desire of men. Rackham’s illustration fits well with her poem, although the age he has given Lizzie remains ambiguous. She resists the goblins for the sake of her sister, and it is made clear they care not for money but rather for power over women and possession of their bodies.

“If you will not sell me any

Of your fruits though much and many,

Give me back my silver penny

I tossed you for a fee.


No longer were they wagging, purring,

But visibly demurring

Grunting and snarling.” (Rossetti 11)

Overall the difference between the two images is whether or not the woman gives in to her temptation, yet both cases remain for the male gaze, even if Salammbo presents a more familiar image of the nude, or rather any image available for the pleasure of men. A better way to understand her narrative would be to look at the novel the print is based on. Gustave Flaubert is the author of the 1862 novel Salammbo, and his identity brings to light an interesting comparison. Christina Rossetti is the only woman among these four creators, so her narrative contains the most moral view (even with the racial tones). Thus we can see how the male gaze twists this narrative to justify colonialism while exploiting women and the violence inflicted upon them, calling for men to come save these pure and pale women from foreigners.

The Depiction of Culture in Victorian Art


I was immediately drawn to this image the moment I walked into the trout gallery during out last class. I am interested in the way in which the exotic was portrayed as something dangerous and threatening within this image. The contrasting colors of the pearly whiteness of the woman’s skin being overtaken by the contrasting dark snake is one of the many ways in which shading within this image seems to represent racial sentiments. The fact that the man in the background is watching this happen and blends into the background furthers this feeling of uneasiness and danger that is often associated with “the other” during the Victorian Era. I believe this shading is intentional for the author’s hopes to convey the danger of the exotic and other cultures.

I think it is important to analyze the artist’s choice of using a snake within this image. Snakes have the connotation of being evil, stealth, and sneaky. These connotations go as far back as the bible, whereas the snake tricked Eve into committing sin and giving into temptation. Thus, snakes generally represent deceit and allurement. One thing I didn’t think of upon looking at this image but that was brought up by a peer was the sensuality of  the woman’s face. In the image, the snake seems to be seducing the woman almost, while also constricting her. Perhaps this was meant to induce fear amongst viewers of other cultures being dangerous, exotic, and having the ability to tempt the innocent to sin.

Another aspect of this image I found to be very interesting was Professor Flaherty’s explanation that this picture depicted a sort of mash up of different cultures. The walls, the clothing of the man, the instrument, the materials; all belong to separate cultures. I believe that this indicated the tendency for Victorian peoples to lump ‘exotic’ cultures together into one ‘other.’ This seems to indicate that people of this time do not necessarily care about these cultures and their characteristics and uniqueness, but rather sees them as all the same, exemplifying the very definition of egocentrism.

All in all, this image represents both the fear of Victorians towards the exotic and their lack of education on the subject. This is just a theory, but at a time where travel and communication between people from across the world was very uncommon, the exotic or the ‘others’ likely became something of mystery. Tales of explorers may have reached those who have never left the country, but these tend to be exaggerated and changed through word of mouth. Furthermore, people tend to be afraid of things they don’t understand. Thus, this image represents both the fear of the exotic and the lack of knowledge on other cultures.

Women and Pets as Domestic Objects

The print “Fannie’s Pets” captured my eye as it appears to be one of the most dynamic prints in the way the subjects appear to be moving, and who doesn’t adore the cute animals? The print features a woman outside, perhaps in a small garden, interacting with many species of birds: parakeets, ducks, a rooster, a peacock, etc. The light shines upon her and the animals so the audience’s attention immediately is drawn to those subjects. Behind the woman, on the left of the print, is a man crouched down in the dark, observing her.

This print brings to mind the role of Count Fosco in The Woman in White and his interaction with women and animals. The woman in the print seems to be interacting with the animals very naturally, while Count Fosco’s interactions with his pets are very strategic due to his training of them. He gives his pets treats when they perform to his satisfaction. He goes as far to call his birds his “children” (270). Count Fosco also gives his wife treats as she gives him his cigarettes which seems to parallel his treatment of his pets. He does not seem to have much of a sense of humanity or intimacy, instead his wife and his pets are objects of enjoyment and entertainment who are rewarded for how they serve him.

“Fannie’s Pets” creates a discourse with The Woman in White that shows the roles of women and domesticated animals to be more similar than different under the observation and manipulation of a Victorian Man. From the male view (assuming the audience takes on the viewership of a man or uses the man in the work itself), the main subject of the print is a woman and her pets and their values are both in their inherent beauty and entertainment-value. When the image is read through the lens created by The Woman in White, the woman and her pets are just objects to be manipulated and observed for enjoyment. There is further symbolism in the image of the birds flying and grabbing the garments of the woman, and while it might be a playful action, it seems to also represent freedom. Birds have the ability to fly away and the woman does not. Yet, this brings light to the captivating qualities that Count Fosco has over women and his manipulative nature towards his pets and women which really leave no opportunity for freedom.

Expectation and What We’ve Come to Expect

Illman Brothers. "Expectation." Trout Gallery,
Illman Brothers. “Expectation.” Trout Gallery,

In the Illman Brothers’ “Expectation,” the female subject’s clothing loses shape the further away from her face you go, making it clear that her visage is the main focus of the work. Looking expectant is hard to visualize, in my opinion. It’s a trait you see in domesticated pets or in children who are waiting for gifts or fun outings. Maybe the woman is waiting patiently for the artist illustrating her to be finished more than anything else. Though, it’s not hard to deduce that Victorian women lead less active lifestyles than their male counterparts, especially those belonging to a higher class. The background appears almost amorphous; I interpret a sun surrounding the top of her head, either sky or clouds going down to her shoulders, a muted horizon to the right of her, and reflecting water. She must be waiting for her significant other to return from somewhere, as she has her hands (or at least her left hand) placed over her chest.

At the Trout Gallery, we briefly discussed the intricate ornamentation framing the portrait. The ovular shape of the frame suggests a mirror, highlighting the motif of the “woman as object” aesthetic that male artists go gaga for. And this one in particular is a sensual plaything, a fantasy. Grapes and cherubs (or whatever those angel babies are called) holding what looks like martini glasses only enhance the mood. I am of course reminded of Walter falling in love with Laura while making her his muse in the beginning of The Woman in White, as well as a more fragile Laura hoping for him to return from his errands when she loses her memory. The image also reminds me of a couple of lines from Christina Rossetti’s “In an Artist’s Studio”: “We found her hidden just behind those screens, / That mirror gave back all her loveliness” (3-4). The man who gazes at this etching is meant to siphon that loveliness (longing, yet perfectly poised) to feed his desire, to spurn him on.

Delicate, Fair and Naive–but Beautiful?

Two points about the connections between the picture above, Feeding the Motherless, by the Illman Brothers, and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

One, her face. Not that she isn’t beautiful–although it would be truthful to note that her face is not crafted to the perfect subtle beauties in some of the other prints. Her eyes have a little strangeness to them in the way they droop, and her lips lack the perfect delicate fullness of, perhaps, the one in Expectation.

Yet from her neck down, there is little, if at all, one could point out to be at fault. The somewhat simple dress (of all colors, white) traces the graceful shape made by her figure, and the fabric of her dress makes slight creases about her arms. And even more so, her hands are crafted to perfection. The one holding the spoon has the most elegant curves, the fingers bending tenderly, and the other holds the nest at a becoming angle. Both are softly shaded.

This reminded me, in fact, of the female characters of The Woman in White. Marian is described to have a very becoming figure, then an ugly face, for one. (With a mustache, hence my pseudonym) Laura Fairlie, more interestingly, is described more on the basis of her body than her face also. It is her bosom and her ribbons that brush against Walter Harwright and make his heart beat, not, for example, her full lips or her wide, sparkling eyes. It makes me wonder, then, if Laura was actually the perfect beauty at all. Perhaps in the standards of the time, she was so well adorned by her figure, her white dress, her passive loving nature and her status as an heiress that she didn’t need those pearly teeth and long eyelashes at all. The only person described to be handsome regarding the face was actually Count Fosco–the increasingly feminine male villain with beautiful eyes.

The second thing I noticed about the picture was still about the face. I don’t take any problem with the distance it has from the “classic beauty,” at all. But something about her expression is still troubling. The woman in the picture doesn’t actually seem to be looking at the baby birds. Her gaze lies somewhere between then and us, the viewer. What is she looking at? We don’t get to find out, but only that she isn’t really concentrating on the task. Is she “feeding the motherless” because she wants to? Despite being engaged in what must surely be a very maternal, loving action, her expression yields no tenderness, no affection or pity at all. This is, to say the least, troubling. What’s going on in her mind…?

I wonder if this is, in a way, also a connection to Laura Fairlie. We never get to find out her thoughts, and never get to hear her voice. Although we didn’t get many hints on whether she was actually not what the people around her thought her to be, it is true that the narrators (especially Walter Hartwright) may have consciously and unconsciously manipulated the story to reflect their own perceptions.

I also wonder if Laura cared about animals all that much. Count Fosco (again) was the one who was good with animals, and Marian was the person who took care of Mrs. Catherick’s wounded dog until its death. Laura Fairlie too had a dog, which strangely disappeared after her marriage and she didn’t seem to look for it… The image of the tender-hearted naive beauty who sings with her birds, then, may not be Laura Fairlie either.


Illman Brothers. “Feeding the Motherless.” Trout Gallery,

Count Fosco and The Prostitute

When initially looking at the chaos and crude happenings in the engraving titled “Mixing A Recipe for Corns”, I could not help but think of the main character in the image as a strange reflection of our dear Count Fosco in The Woman in White. Just as Count Fosco keeps a constant flurry of animals around him at all times, the woman in the engraving is surrounded by an uncomfortable number of little animals or animal references (such as peacock feathers). There even appears to be a cockatoo in the image, just as Count Fosco had a cockatoo, “a most vicious and treacherous bird towards towards every one else” (219). In the photo the wild animals add to the sense of frenzy and lack of control this woman has in her declining youth, whereas in The Woman in White, Count Fosco’s animals serve to show his desire for control, which highlights how a multitude of animals could be seen in contrasting lights based on the gender of who is controlling them.

I also noticed a similarity to Count Fosco in the subject of the engraving. The declining prostitute, who is wildly stirring a cauldron with one hand, is a bit gender ambiguous. I, at first, mistook the subject for a man, as the hair is tied away and the facial features err on the more manly side. Count Fosco also seems to have more feminine traits at times, such as his elaborate clothing and how he moves about a room, “he is as noiseless in a room as any of us woman” (219). In regards to the engraving, the prostitute is also the most colorful, and the viewer’s eyes are drawn to her and her activities instantly. This hearkens to the characters in the story, even Marian, who are inevitably drawn to this figure of Count Fosco. We discussed in the Trout Gallery that the prostitute seems almost witch-like, with her cauldron on the fire and bottles of potions thrown on the table and around her feet. This relates to Count Fosco’s obsession with alternative medicine, and all the references we have to his likeness for poison. Thus like the woman in the etching, it’s easy to picture Count Fosco deviously mixing a concoction of flowers and herbs to use against the other characters in the book.

Why did I spend so long pointing out the strange similarities between the prostitute in “Mixing A Recipe for Corns” and Count Fosco’s character in The Woman in White? I find it interesting that while these two people have many similar qualities, habits, and affinities, one is a withering prostitute who will spend her life teaching other women to learn how to degrade themselves to men and the other is a formidable man who has an immense amount of authority and respect. This just seems to highlight the influence of gender within the time period, and how males can flourish while holding the same characteristics of females, or in this case, a frumpy, old prostitute.


Cruikshank, George. Mixing a Recipe for Corns. 1835. Trout Gallery, Carisle. Web. 11 Oct 2016.

Gendered Futures: The Limits of Female Desire in the Victorian Era

The etching  “Looking into the Future” by the Illman brothers depicts a woman kneeling by a window with her hands clasped, face turned up and out towards the sun, which presumably is the source of light bathing her clothing and face. The pose is strongly reminiscent of kneeling to pray, which would suggest that she is not only looking to the future but hoping to better her future by making requests of God. The specific future she imagines is unknown to the viewer and must, therefore, be assumed or imposed upon her, which relates to ideas described in the article “Gender roles in the 19th century” by Kathryn Hughes. In the article, Hughes discusses the stigma against women displaying their desires, sexual or for activities outside of the usual realm of women’s duties. The female subject of the etching, therefore, has no agency to display her own desires. Even the title, “Looking into the future,” is so vague as to say nothing whatsoever to differentiate this woman from any other. No one else should know her specific desires for the future because anything outside of the home would be considered deviant.

Because of the strict gender roles during the Victorian era, all that was left for women was to dream of a future, with no agency to decide their own lives. The expectation was to marry and have children, and few alternatives were considered legitimate, as is exemplified by Florence Nightingale’s outbursts because of her unrealized desires to be useful. The only option in the limited world of a woman was to gaze outward and upward to God, dreaming of a future beyond a contained life like the one shown visually by the walls of the woman’s home.

This interpretation, however, would not have been the assumed one at the time. The well-covered woman has soft lines forming her face and a brightness in her face and clothes, showing her chastity and respectability. She appears gentle and feminine. Likely, the interpretation at the time would have been that she hopefully awaits her life in the home, or prays for the future health and prosperity of her family. What, we might wonder, would this etching look like were a man the subject, looking to his own future? Would the title even remain the same, or would a man’s entire approach to the future be so radically different that he would take action rather than passively anticipating his life? Would he be making decisions, assertively, with a range of possibilities available?

The article initially announced itself as describing gender roles during the time period and then, to my surprise, devoted itself almost entirely to the role of women, with only a few sentences in comparison devoted men. This idea that describing gender roles can be accomplished only through looking at women reminded me of the concept that men are a blank slate, the norm, whereas women are the deviation from the norm that inherently must be imbued with meaning, instead of merely describing each as normal though distinct in the context of a limited gender binary. I should acknowledge, then, that either my interpretation of the etching or the etching itself conforms to this belief as well, saying that the meaning is inherently altered by virtue of the gender of the subject. I have to wonder whether the message of a gender-flipped version of the etching could have been the same in that era, or if the assumption of male normalcy was so ingrained that it would never be possible.