“The Invisible Princess” (1897) by Laurence Housman


Laurence Housman’s “The Invisible Princess” (1897), was published under the art contents in the second volume of the little magazine The Pagent. It is a depiction of a scene from his short fairytale, “Blind Love”  showing the invisible Princess Innygreth – who has been locked in her room by her father- escaping to save her love, Sir Perycn. And here in this image, we see the ‘invisible kiss’. The figure is Sir Percy kissing the Princess. 

This artwork showcases many aspects of Pre-Raphealite art, through the emphasis on nature and aesthetic. Housman uses line work, shading, and point of view to exhibit his intentions. The very first thing a viewer sees is the prevalence of nature; the number of details in the flowers elicits the importance of natural features in this artwork.  They create a border around the central figure, inviting the viewers to pay attention to the details of the Princess. There is a lot of attention on her drapery, which suggests tension and also evokes a sense of movement. Through the use of light and dark, the shading suggests movement and struggle. The drapery is drawn in such a way that it seems as if it’s a part of the flowers.  Through the details – especially in the clothing, her facial expressions, and the shackles on the arms, the viewer is able to figure out the tension in this scene. 

If we move all the way at the bottom left, there is see a hidden figure peeking out of a little tunnel, this gives the overall artwork a sense of mystery. Then moving towards the background, the shading is lighter and there is less emphasis on the details, everything is depicting in a neutral tone. However, the architectural design of the castes evokes medievalist; the shape of the towers, the hanging bridge, semi arched, windows – all have the elements of medieval castles- which is also an aspect of Pre-Raphaeliat art.

The balance between the light and dark- the foreground being darker, more detailed oriented and the background, a subtle, less detailed, Housman achieves aesthetic beauty. There are curved lines and intricate design in the foreground suggesting movement compared to the background, where we see straight lines. However, even in those straight lines, there is a sense of movement and they invite the viewer back to the central figure. This contrast between the foreground and background evokes a sense of harmony, hence elevating the aesthetic prevalence of the artwork. And because of his heavy focus on the flora and fauna, Housman’s piece perfectly fits into the theme of ‘excessive’ beauty of The Pagent: Volume 2.