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Introduction: Curating Feeling

This introduction discusses the process of ‘curating feeling’ in response to the ‘Fallen Woman’ exhibition curated by Lynda Nead at the Foundling Museum in 2015. It uses this idea to reflect on both the historical specificity of Victorian emotion and the ways in which emotive objects have the potential to collapse time, nurturing a transhistorical sense of emotional community. The ...

Vernon Lee’s Composition of ‘The Virgin of the Seven Daggers’: Historic Emotion and the Aesthetic Life

This article examines Vernon Lee’s personal impressions of the people, landscapes, architecture, and religious art she encountered while travelling in Tangier and Southern Spain in the winter of 1888 and 1889 as recorded in her Commonplace Book iv. In doing so, it contextualizes the composition of Lee’s only supernatural tale set in Spain, ‘The Virgin of the Seven Daggers’, written ...

Diana or Christ?: Seeing and Feeling Doubt in Late-Victorian Visual Culture

A young woman, a Christian from the third century ce, has a serious decision to make. She stands before a vast crowd at Ephesus, in what is now Turkey. Should she show her allegiance to Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, and live, or choose Christ, and be thrown to the lions? Victorian gallery-goers were entranced by this scene, an 1881 painting by the Anglo-Catholic Edwin Long, ...

Richard Dadd’s Passions and the Treatment of Insanity

Richard Dadd, an academically trained young artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy, suddenly descended into madness in 1843 and murdered his father whom he believed to be an impostor. Dadd spent forty-two years in institutions for the criminally insane. During that time he was encouraged by his doctors to paint and continued to produce art work which included a large series, ...

On Tempera and Temperament: Women, Art, and Feeling at the Fin de Siècle

In her recent book Women Writing Art History in the Nineteenth Century, Hilary Fraser observes that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s account of Hilda’s womanly sensibility in The Marble Faun subsumes her visual agency into the vision of the master painter. Hilda is widely regarded as being modelled on his wife, the painter and illustrator Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s reference to a ...

The Awakening Conscience: Christian Sentiment, Salvation, and Spectatorship in Mid-Victorian Britain

From the 1830s into the mid-1850s, key Victorian art and texts depicted passionate Christian feeling through the trope of ‘awakening’. Visual and written representations dramatized awakening Christians in fervent states of salvation, conversion, and devotion. Feeling had always been central to Christian belief but in the long nineteenth century faith was newly wedded to sensation. ...

‘For the cake was so pretty’: Tactile Interventions in Taste; or, Having One’s Cake and Eating It in The Mill on the Floss

The feeling of hunger operates under a premise of sensory absence, creating a yearning for taste and for touch. Yet it becomes even more pronounced when a degree of touch is permitted, but taste is denied. In such moments, satiation is brought painfully near, intensifying the emptiness of the stomach. This understanding of physical hunger can be extended to aesthetic desire, ...

The Trouble with Feeling Now: Thomas Woolner, Robert Browning, and the Touching Case of Constance and Arthur

Using a marble statue by the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner as its focus, this article discusses historical and present-day concerns about the act of feeling for aesthetic objects. The statue, entitled Constance and Arthur, a portrait of two deaf children, was first shown at the chaotic and commercially driven 1862 International Exhibition. Woolner asked Robert Browning to ...

Art, Music, and the Emotions in the Aesthetic Movement

This article explores two phenomenologically distinct aspects of cultural production, art and music. It shows how they overlap, exist in counterpoint or in harmony, and coalesce around specific themes and preoccupations to represent, articulate, produce, or, indeed, repress feelings. Focusing on the work of William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, ...

Feeling, Affect, Melancholy, Loss: Millais’s Autumn Leaves and the Siege of Sebastopol

John Millais’s Autumn Leaves (1856) has long been recognized as a painting that sets out to produce certain feelings in the spectator — feelings that are usually identified as very abstract ones of melancholy and loss. As such, it tends to be read either alongside contemporary poetry that seeks to evoke a similar response, or as a forerunner of the aesthetic turn of the 1860s. I ...

‘They cannot choose but look’: Ruskin and Emotional Architecture

To mark the death of John Ruskin in 1900, the architect Robert Kerr wrote an article for the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal titled ‘Ruskin and Emotional Architecture’. Kerr, one of the founding members of the Architectural Association, credited Ruskin with creating an awareness of the emotional intensity of the architectural experience. Ruskin was, according to Kerr, ...

Reading Victorian Sculpture

This introduction reflects on reading sculpture in Victorian culture, and in Victorian studies. How did the Victorians read sculpture? How should we read it today? What might a sculpture connote in different contexts: the home, the street, the gallery, the colony? How broadly should we define what we describe as ‘Victorian sculpture’, in light of nineteenth-century industrial and ...