The magnificent painting Sibylla Palmifera demonstrates the connections artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti often made between his paintings and his poetry. One of the sonnets from the House of Life reveals the subject of Sibylla Palmifera (or "Soul's Beauty"):
This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
Thy voice and hand shake still, - long known to thee
By flying hair and fluttering hem, - the beat
Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
How passionately and irretrievably,
In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
The painting features a great deal of symbolic detail. The woman holds a palm, which suggests victory - some sources state that Rossetti meant to represent the victory of the soul over death. Indeed, other symbols in the work seem to reinforce this interpretation. The butterflies that hover in the background are symbols of the soul, and the poppies that appear in the upper right corner are often used to symbolize sleep or death in art.
Sibylla Palmifera is also an example of one of Rossetti's primary artistic obsessions - depicting the beautiful woman that so haunted his imagination. In this image, the artist's model was the 'stunner' Alexa Wilding. In addition to Sibylla Palmifera, the lovely Alexa Wilding appears in several of Rossetti's other works, including his Lady Lilith, La Ghirlandata, Monna Vanna, and Venus Verticordia.
David Rodgers has written this informative and engaging book about the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The book, which is part of the Phaidon Colour Library series, features many of Rossetti's most memorable paintings, including his Beata Beatrix and The Blessed Damozel.
This lovely book by Andrea Rose captures the essence of Pre-Raphaelite art using a series of images from several artists.