La belle dam sans mercie

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John William Waterhouse


, Victorian Romanticist painter and draftsman

La belle dam sans mercie

The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy


112 x 81 cms | 44 x 31 3/4 ins
Oil on canvas

Hessisches Landesmuseum

Darmstadt | Germany

This painting is probably one of Waterhouse's more famous images. Translated in English as 'The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy,' this painting depicts a woman ensnaring a knight in the forest, drawing him towards her with her hair. The knight, totally enraptured by her beauty stares into her eyes hopelessly. As Peter Trippi, world expert on Waterhouse, points out in his catalog rèsumè: "This picture owes its intensity not only to the seductive gaze from the lady's eye, but also the figures' expressive juxtaposition." Trippi also says that La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a result of the "fascination with the hypnotic power of beauty." The title of this piece derives from a poem by Keats first published in 1820, in which a knight is bewitched by a fairy in a meadow, almost costing him his life. (Rèsumè on J.W. Waterhouse) La Belle Dam Sans Mercie is a common theme depicted in many Victorian paintings of a woman using her beauty to entrap men, putting them at great peril. It is truly an amazing work of art.
-- Kara Ross

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