Sunday, 24 May 2015

Identifying the Third Queen.

I posted this picture back in the early days of the blog, but for some reason it’s become prominent again today and has been holding my attention all afternoon and evening.

Le Morte d'Arthur by James G Archer

The thing is this: Ever since I was a young child, the Romantic Arthurian canon (forget the quest for the historical character, the existence of whom can never be more than speculative) has been absolutely central to the Romantic side of my nature. What’s more, the transfer of Arthur from earth to Avalon has been the most potent element. I assume it’s how I came by my near-fixation with the three women motif in all things Romantic, mystical, and even mundane. But there’s a mystery here that I’ve been unable to solve.

Tradition has it that Arthur was conducted to Avalon by three queens. Two of the women in this picture – those closest to his head who are each wearing a crown – obviously represent two of them, but which of the remaining women is the third? Is it the one leaning against the tree, or the one on whose thigh the King’s feet are resting? The former is more pictorially prominent, but the latter is making physical contact. And why is it that neither of them is wearing a crown? Should we, perhaps, assume that Archer intended that four queens accompany Arthur on his last journey? That would throw me completely (even if you think I should have better things to waste my time on…)

So, if there are any experts in art history or artistic symbolism in the auditorium, I would welcome an opinion. Odd though it might seem, such things matter to me (quite a lot.)

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