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  • Writer's pictureValeria Pugliese

Pre-Raphaelite Fetishism

In the past few weeks, I have been largely exposed to Burlesque: a live performance, compulsive lingerie shopping, a bejewelled Victorian underbust corset found abandoned in the dark depths of my wardrobe which shall be worn soon, reading Dita Von Teese's wonderful book Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour.

The latter, in particular, hiped hot rollers with intensity as the secret for the most luxurious vintage waves; all excited, I tried them up and failed miserably.

Although I am not going to stop being an artificial jet-black Madame, the idea of a haircut just over my nipples tempts me; the battles with the knots, the ever-changing night styles, the dramatic fall-hair-fall, the Quatru Anticu (see #siciliansays definition) daily up-dos, splurging on scalp serums and oils will finally be over; I can have fun, I thought, I can use hot rollers and look smoking hot.

Compliment OR Offence (points of view) I often receive when back in Sicily

Almost ready to embrace with youthful jollification the carelessness I have left two years before I hit the harrowing 30s , I had the pleasure of visiting the magnificent exhibition The Rossettis at Tate Britain which closed on 24th September, the largest display of Dante Gabriel Rossetti art in two decades, highlighting the unorthodox relationships between Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris.

Post-exhbition ponderings:

  • Discovered, watched and loved the film Dante's Inferno: The Private Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poet and Painter (1967) by Ken Russell (playback not allowed although you can find the full version on the following link:

  • A desire for a modern intellectual, creative, influencing, sensual communion among eccentrics, dandies, peacocks, decadents, and aesthetes (titles diminish maximalist personalities) who live their life through art, like a work of art; my network is now on a happy expansion phase, currently testing, with not much caution (petulant, explicit and animal, as usual), values, boundaries and taste. How would a contemporary Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood & sisterhood look like?

  • This drawing, THE HAIR:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Elizabeth Siddal (study for Delia)

This negligible study erotically woke me up from any intellectual pursuit, naughtily reminding me I was, indeed, surrounded by shameless evident fetishism: long hair fetish!

The Victorian taste for tuberculous pale and slender looks did not go away although what made these women different from Symbolist vampiric femme fatales of the later 1890s was the added touch of opulence which made them look larger, sensorily inviting, almost kinesthetic for the eyes: you are aroused by the thought of caressing them, immersing yourself among the lustrous dangerous hair, inhaling their perfume, suffocated, prostrated at last.

Personally, their hair evoked a similar pleasure I feel when I am enveloped in heavy furs (and I am a loud & proud fur fetishist); the fur, though, implicates a martyrdom to vanity, while the hair, instead, are a symbol of vitalism, health, they live as the woman lives (although I like to think that Death made Her way in this drawing, reflecting on the disturbing rumours spread after Elizabeth Siddal's exhumation: her hair, allegedly, grown longer and longer while dead - I am sensual soul mixed with a constant hint of macabre, you already know that).

Memento Mori scene from Dante's Inferno: The Private Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poet and Painter

Me going to a vintage event with my 4-tails fox stole which has been heavily perfumed and used as a tormentor tool: this IS fur fetish

The hair-fur double fetishism reached the apotheosis in this painting; she was my absolute favourite:

Monna Vanna, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866


The original title was Venus Veneta (Venetian Venus) made reference to the Renaissance and classical archetypes of Italian, Venetian, in this case, ideal of female beauty, imitating those by Titian and other 16th century painters.

One of the most beautiful "Venus in Furs" is actually by Titian himself, further corroborating the hair-fur fetish relationship.

Venus with a Mirror, Titian, circa 1555

The alive, ensnaring and strangling nature of long hair in Pre-Raphelites women is explicitly described through the interpretation of the enchantress Lilith, both in art and poetry:

Lady Lilith, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866


And her enchanted hair was the first gold.

And still she sits, young while the earth is old,

And, subtly of herself contemplative,

Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,

Till heart and body and life are in its hold.


(Sonnet LXXVIII entitled "Body's Beauty" from D.G. Rossetti's The House of Life)

The exhibition was absolutely stunning, a pretext to live & breathe Beauty, a reflection on yet more facets and mysteries of the Eternal Feminine.

Proserpine, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874: raven head fetish

Throughout the years of my late adolescence, critical towards the acceptance of the Amazon androgynous body against the nurturing-cow-woman way more preferred by Sicilian men (plebs), I recall immersing myself in the study and research of the Freudian castration complex as the basis for the rational creation of my persona and individual aesthetic, which then became my armour against basic bros and dull environments.

The Rossettis' exhibition resuscitated an interest towards this Freudian concept which, in insight, it seems unconsciously governed many of my phallic life choices: I am a daddy's girl (to the point I identified as both Athena & Aphrodite in the Jungian text Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen), I chose a corporate career mainly moved by the desire to work in tall buildings (the goal remains The Gherkin in London, love it), I often cross-dress, cross-undress and perform (we are not going there on a public blog, interpretations are open), I am constantly covered in jewels (often long strands of pearls or drop earrings), my musical instrument of choice was the saxophone (aka making music through a "big C", a potent, deep, voluptuous golden instrument which gave me the voice of a Sir), my soul animal is the snake (which I war often through jewellery pieces, fabric prints and lingerie), I made my hair grow long and I, simply, love men and I do not disregard the value of a patriarchal structure and its impact of the development of the feminine.

In The Unconscious Significance of Hair (1951), Charles Berg considered hair through the interpretative lenses of dreams, anthropology, folklore, and perversion, making hair the perfect, naturally human, phallic symbol. While cutting hair is associated with moral rigour and restraint on instinctual pulsions, by contrast growing hair indicates sexual freedom and complete liberation and expression of the the sensual.

Penis envy is real in women although, if positively integrated, it can become a great source of creativity, vitalism and positivism towards sexuality and eroticism.

The symbol of the castration complex is the Medusa's Head.

Tutto torna, it all adds up: to castrate = to decapitate, the gaze and the venomous hair-serpents which make men turn in stone (erection), the long hair, their alive sensuous nature, a fetishism I unconsciously embodied for years without even recognising it.

Medusa, Jean Delville, 1893

What is at the conclusion of this article?

I have no idea, I still believe the hot rollers' waves will make me look amazing and more playful, shorter hair will be way easier to maintain although... it has been wonderful to reflect and discover "symbolic possession" through art.

Before cutting them, I shall caress, perfume, celebrate my long hair, titillate, strangle, and conquer with the Siren hair.

Long haired tormentor pt I which may almost pass for a goth

Long haired tormentor pt II

Some Gabriele D'Annunzio as nourishment for both aesthetes and fetishists, from the poetry collection Poema paradisiaco/Hortus conclusus; the title is La passeggiata (The Walk):


vostri, dei grandi medusèi capelli

bruni come foglie morte

ma vivi e fien come l’angui attorte

de la Górgone, io temo, se ribelli,

e pieni del terribile mistero.

Me non avvolgerà tanto mistero.

Dicono che nel folto de le chiome

voi abbiate una ciocca rossa come

una fiamma: nel folto chiusa. È vero?

Io la penso, e la veggo fiammeggiare.

La veggo stramente fiammeggiare

come un segno fatale.



I fear your magnificent Medusa hair,

Black as dead leaves,

Though alive and venomous as the serpentine heads of the Gorgon,

Uncontrollable, animated by the terrible mystery.

Or maybe, you are not that mysterious.

I heard in the depths of your hair

There is a red lock, the colour of fire,

Enclosed in the forest. Is it the truth?

I fantasise about it, I see it burning as a flame.

That fire burns abnormally,

I see it as the sign of Death.


And a final reference to the significance of hair as part of the "Dictionary of Decadence", the last section of the necessary and precious book DREAMERS OF DECADENCE: Symbolist painters of the 1890s (1971) by the beloved Philippe Jullian:


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