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Inspired by Tennyson's poem The Palace of Art, this is one Waterhouse's most famous pictures, and it was an immediate success when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy. His depiction of St Cecilia stays close to Tennyson's brief description, but adds symbolic poppies as emblems of sleep, and also of death, as St Cecilia was a martyr. The angels play instruments in recognition of her being the patron saint of music. Waterhouse belonged to the generation following the Pre-Raphaelites and shared their love of religious and narrative subjects, however he depicted them in the more impressionistic painting technique of his own day.

August 2004