Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4741
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  • Title: The Medieval Hero Through a Modernist Painter's Eyes: David Jones and the Pictorial Re-presentation of Lancelot
  • Source: Seeing Gender: Perspectives on Medieval Gender and Sexuality. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, King's College, London, January 4-6, 2002.. 2002.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Body Heroes in Art Jones, David, Artist- Four Queens of 1941 Malory, Sir Thomas, Author- Morte Darthur Masculinity in Art
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 15, 20
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  • Abstract: Through his choice of artistic and literary sources, the Anglo-Welsh artist David Jones (1895-1974) has often been labelled as ‘a modernist-medievalist’. Building upon the foundations of medieval revivalism in art, a tradition associated with the Pre-Raphaelites in the late Nineteenth Century, Jones adopted the narrative of Malory’s Le Morte Darthur as a formal basis for his visual images of the 1930s and 1940s. This paper will focus upon one of his most celebrated and complex paintings, The Four Queens of 1941, a painting whose composition describes pictorially Lancelot’s encounter with the Four Queens as narrated in Malory’s text (Caxton: Book VI, Chap II). A reading of the painting in the light of the literary analyses of Cohen and Wheeler will suggest that Jones is questioning the heroic status of Malory’s protagonist by portraying Lancelot’s body as wounded and castrated – a shocking and frank re-presentation clearly subverting the aesthetic norms and conventions of his Victorian predecessors. By means of pictorial castration, Jones’ reinvented hero becomes both physically and politically ambiguous; Lancelot’s decomposed genitalia imply otherness, lack and deformity as prescribed by Aristotelian and Freudian notions of femininity; visibly reviewing the canonical system of gender ‘principles’ and thus the legitimacy of masculine control. This paper will show that Jones’ painting stands as a Modernist critique of the gender-related problems implicit in Malory’s original narrative. Further, it will examine broader questions of the reception and interpretation of medieval texts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
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  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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