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Medieval Renewal: The Pre-Raphaelites’ Quest for the Holy Grail and Arthurian Legends

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The Holy Grail as a symbol of chivalric heroism and a metaphor for human quest.
    1. Sir Edward Burne jones: The High History of the Holy Graal.
    2. Dante Gabriel Rosserri, Sir Launcelot's Vision of the Sanc Grael.
    3. Sir Edward Burne jones: The Arming and Departure of Knights.
  3. The medieval woman: questionings about the archetypal beauty.
    1. Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Grail Maiden, or The Attainment of the Sanc Greal.
    2. Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Blue Closet.
    3. William Morris: Queen Guinevere.
  4. The medieval couple: betrayal and bewitching as defining love.
    1. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Arthur's Tomb: The Last Meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere.
    2. Sir Edward Burne jones, The Beguiling of Merlin.
  5. Bibliography.

The Holy Grail is usually considered to be the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and the one used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch his blood as he hung on the cross. This significance was introduced into the Arthurian legends. In earlier sources and in some later ones, the Grail is something very different. The term "grail" comes from the Latin "gradale", which meant a dish brought to the table during various stages. In medieval romance, the Grail was said to have been brought to Glastonbury in Britain by Joseph of Arimathea and his followers. In the time of Arthur, the quest for the Grail was the highest spiritual pursuit, and indeed, Arthurian legends on a larger scale deeply influenced literature and art in its broadest sense. In the stale atmosphere of the early-Victorian English painting, the so-called Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood proposed an original outlook and radically new objectives, sharing the ultimate purpose to give a genuine rebirth to art. They rejected Raphael's conventions, and sought inspiration in the paintings of the primitive Italian masters, a singular attitude which lays at the very origin of their name.

[...] The medieval couple: betrayal and bewitching as defining love. Dante Gabriel ROSSETTI, Arthur's Tomb: The Last Meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere. Arthur's death is also evoked in Rossetti's Lancelot and Guinevere at the Tomb of Arthur. It is maybe the artist's first Arthurian subject, drawing his inspiration from Malory's work. A great plastic sensibility emanates from this painting. The viewer's eye, in the first place, is attracted by the position of the two protagonists, leaning over the tomb. The knight's spear is mirrored by the queen's veil, and both form two of the sides of a triangle, meeting at a vertex materialized by their adjacent faces. [...]


[...] On this rather well-known painting, Lancelot the left, ridding his horse- is receiving his shield from Queen Guinevere, while the other ladies hold his helmet and sword and encourage the knights ?Percival and Galahad are the main ones-, preparing for the quest of the Holy Grail. What strikes first in the picture is the verticality of it in its entirely: the folds of the ladies' dresses, the spears, the women's plaited hair, the shields, all these elements contribute to unify the scene, joining the knights and the women together. [...]


[...] However, apart from the cold and formal aspect of the picture, it is worth mentioning that it provides the observer with a clear definition of the Holy Grail and its legend: in a way, such an illustration is a necessary first step for anyone wanting to understand the Quest for the Holy Grail indeed, the book itself must be worth skimming through. Dante Gabriel ROSSETTI, Sir Launcelot's Vision of the Sanc Grael. A common Arthurian belief was that the sight of the Holy Grail allowed the observer to acquire absolute conviction of immortality, of everlasting youth. [...]

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