The book I just finished reading, Pre-Raphaelite Art in the Victoria & Albert Museum, had an interesting quote. I'd love to know what everyone thinks of it.
All three artists, Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Sandys, were more interested in depicting their ideal of feminine beauty than exploring the characters of real women. By the mid-1860s, they had established a 'type', and sought models who would conform to this image. They may not have been reproducing the conventional prettiness of the Victorian Miss, nor the placid features of Raphael's Virgins, which the early PRB tried so hard to avoid, yet Rossetti's voluptuous allegories, and Burne-Jones' sensitive waifs, were figments of their imagination rather than studies from nature. The aspirations of the women who modeled for these paintings, or who created works of art in their own right, were often obscured by the image constructed by the male artist. The fate of the women of the Pre-Raphaelite circle can sometimes resemble that of the Lady of Shalott. In her own sphere she is a singer and a weaver, but when she becomes subject to the male gaze, her skills are overlooked. In Lancelot's eyes, she is significant only because 'She has a lovely face.'
I thought the parallel between the Pre-Raphaelite women and the Lady of Shalott was incredibly inspired.