Monday, July 14, 2008

Secrecy and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Did you know that the meaning of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was originally a secret?

When the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood first appeared, the members of the Brotherhood signed their paintings with the secret monogram "PRB." According to legend, the significance of PRB was unknown for almost two years, until it was leaked by a journalist who had received a tip from the sculptor Alexander Munro.

They say that "loose lips sink ships," and it was Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was responsible for leaking the Brotherhood's secret. He rather indiscreetly told Alexander Munro in 1850 about the identity of the brotherhood and then swore him to secrecy.

Munro didn't manage to keep the secret very long. The news that PRB stood for "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" rocked the art world and caused a great deal of speculation amongst the public. The Victorian public immediately conjectured that the Pre-Raphaelites were some kind of secret Catholic society hell-bent on taking over the British art world (while James Collinson, Christina Rossetti's fiance, was a devoted Catholic, most of the other members were not).

The image shown above is William Holman Hunt's Rienzi, painted in 1849. The painting was the first of William Holman Hunt's canvases to include the initials "P.R.B.".

1 comment:

skatej said...

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory.