Women in Art History by Women in web3: Ophelia & Papilla estelar


Women in Art History by Women in web3: Ophelia & Papilla estelar

This collection tells the stories of two leading women in Art History through the art of women in web3. By collaborating with our 8 artists to reframe, revive and refresh the stories of Elizabeth Siddal; artist, model and muse for Ophelia and Remedios Varo, artist of Papilla estelar, together we’re sharing the narratives of women in art from the past and present.

Learn how our community and collectors are in it #ForTheArt.

Ophelia & Elizabeth Siddal

Sir John Everett Millais, 1829–1896
Ophelia 1851-1852
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 762 × 1118 mm
Frame: 1105 × 1458 × 145 mm
Learn about Elizabeth Siddal
Through this painting by Sir John Everett Millais we’re sharing the story of the model and artist Elizabeth Siddal.

Born in 1829, it was the British artist Walter Howell Deverell, who met her first and spoke of her: “You fellows can’t tell what a stupendously beautiful creature I have found… She’s like a queen, magnificently tall.”

And so, Elizabeth has often been referred to as the world’s first supermodel, the inspiration for many paintings.

Working an arduous job at a hat shop with difficult working conditions and long hours, it was her mother who suggested her daughter work as a model, despite its negative association. However Elizabeth’s resulting fame ultimately enabled her to pursue painting and poetry full time. In 1857 she was the sole female exhibitor at the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition in London.

Such was the multitude of paintings she sat for, Elizabeth inadvertently re-defined public opinion on beauty at a time when her willowy build, gaunt features and copper-coloured hair were considered (as put by a journalist in the 1850s) as ‘social suicide’. Her later life was sadly affected by a series of tragedies but the lasting impressions she formed in both the paintings she created and inspired remain the subject of incredible interest and intrigue today.
Learn about Ophelia
Ophelia: Shakespeare was favoured by Victorian painters, and the tragic-romantic figure of Ophelia from Hamlet was especially popular. The young girl is driven mad when her father is murdered by her lover Hamlet and suffering from grief and madness succumbs to death. This painting required Elizabeth to pose for four months in a bath of water kept warm by lamps underneath which caused her ill health and the resulting threat of legal action against the artist by her father. The background of the painting was started first and in aim with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists, the close study of nature was incorporated. The plants in the painting have much symbolic significance. Roses near Ophelia's cheek and dress, and on the bank, may connect with the name her brother gave her, 'rose of May'. Willow, nettle and daisy are associated with forsaken love, pain, and innocence as well as the pansies which refer to love in vain. Violets, which Ophelia wears in a chain around her neck, stand for faithfulness, chastity or death of the young, and her body lies surrounded by Forget-me-nots floating in the water.
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Papilla estelar & Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo (1908–1963)
Papilla estelar, 1958
Oil on board
36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm)
Learn about Remedios Varo
Exiled from Spain during the Spanish Civil War, Remedios Varo’s spent a few years in Paris before journeying to Mexico. In Paris she produced very little work, at a time when women were not taken seriously as surrealist artists.

Mexico was pivotal for Remedios Varo as it was here she settled with a surrealist group of artists, forming a lifelong friendship with Leonora Carrington, the two creating, travelling and even dreaming together. Both artists had a profound impact on the other’s art, their spirituality and belief in magic strongly influencing Varo’s art. She was extremely connected to nature and believed that there was a strong relation between the plant, human, animal, and mechanical world, this belief in mystical forces ever present in her paintings.
Learn about Papilla estelar
Painted in 1958 Papilla estelar shows a female seated in an octagonal tower, her meat grinder churning out food from the stars to feed the moon, which is enclosed in a cage. This woman is camouflaged as a housewife, but on a deeper level she is nurturing the cosmic powers connected to the moon and to the feminine principle of creation. Varo often painted images of women in confined spaces, achieving a sense of isolation, and she also criticized the domestic passivity of the chores related to women at the time. This work highlights that even when women are necessary to maintain cosmic order, they are still trapped and alone in domestic work.
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