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Grace Coddington, Steven Meisel, Saoirse Ronan and the Pre-Raphaelities

The cover of the December 2011 issue of American Vogue featured yet another celebrity looking gorgeous, but otherwise uninspiring. With a degree of boredom I flicked through the magazine not knowing that a real treasure was tucked away among the endless advertisements.

A collaboration between stylist Grace Coddington, photographer Steven Meisel and actress Saoirse Ronan yielded this breath-taking editorial paying homage to the Pre-Raphaelites, radical English artists active over 150 years ago. The group included John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and their muse, the striking Elizabeth Siddal with her long neck, green eyes and flaming red hair.

Saoirse Roman in Chanel Couture

William Holman Hunt’s Isabella And The Pot of Basil (1868)

Dante Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata (1872)

Saoirse Roman in Oscar de la Renta

John William Waterhouse’s Ophelia (ca. 1905-1910), who technically is not one of the Raphaelites, but active at the beginning of the 20th century was greatly inspired by them.

Saoirse Roman in Balenciaga

Sir John Evert Millais, Ophelia (1851-52). One of the most beautiful and certainly my favourite of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Elizabeth Siddal spent hours floating in a icy bathtub through a winter modelling for Millais and subsequently became ill with pneumonia. In this painting, Millais has captured the moment just before Ophelia’s death, probably by suicide, in a brook under a willow tree. There is so much more that could be said about this painting, but I will let this close-up speak for itself.

For those of you who live in London or plan to visit late this year, take yourselves off to Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde at the Tate Britain (12 September 2012 – 13 January 2013). It’s going to be gorgeous.

Image Credit: American Vogue December 2011. Photography Steven Meisel