Friday, 10 June 2011

Lilith: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Briar Rose
Styling: Briar Rose and GothicNarcissus
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (textures)

Who hasn’t ever heard of Lilith, the wayward woman, the Lustful One, the Succubus? As far as it concerns me, I have known her since I was a child and have always had this image of a beautiful young woman with a mass of long, wayward auburn curls and a slightly dark skin in a black lacy nightgown. No wonder I imagined her like that rather than the much more gentle and “tamed” Pre-Raphaellite counterpart, as this is how she was depicted in a 1998 issue of an Italian astrological magazine called Astra. I’ve realised just recently that my mental image was derived from that illustration on an article of some unusual aspect between the Black Moon and Venus which occurred that year, and it has become so strongly rooted in my mind that I eventually decided it would be more or less how my own Lilith would look like.
There’s no real need to introduce Lilith, as facts about her are common knowledge and so detailed that they immediately provided me with a full-rounded character who only needed some minor adjustment to fit in my cosmology (such as arbitrarily choosing a Choir for her to fit my Demon = Fallen Angel motif, and further emproving her relationship network). Choosing a model wasn’t a problem either: after watching some photos of my dear BriarRose with her hair all curled up, my brain immediately connected her sensual figure, somewhat reminiscent of Middle East, with the image of Lilith I have had since my childhood. When I proposed her the role she accepted gladly, as Lilith has always been a figure that fascinated her, as well as a relevant part of her personality. She was even considering dyeing her hair red but was not sure, and this prompted her to give it a try (which eventually proved a very good choice).
Lady Lilith by Gabriel Dante Rossetti (1868)
Lady Lilith by Gabriel Dante Rossetti (1868).
Anyways, Lilith soon presented me with pretty much the same problems as Asmodeus: I had to provide a sensual and allusive representation without showing too much, as a nude or half-nude would be too obvious and banal (how many undressed Liliths have you seen, compared to the dressed ones? Meh). With the male character I got rid of the problem having him sort of bare-chested, which was impossible with a woman. The solution popped up during some brainstorming I had with BriarRose: portraying her in the act of unlacing her corset, showing her back to the camera. Simple but effective, with a much deeper symbolism. Besides, with black clothes and a corset, our rendition would also be much darker and more extreme than the Pre-Raphaellite one, as I wanted it to be.
Some symbolism now. The half-unlaced corsets has two meanings: 1) although she dresses elegant in order to fit the Court of Pandemonium, her primordial, rebel spirit often surfaces, forcing her to flee from the prison of etiquette and clothes; 2) the act of taking off the corset is a reference to her being a symbol of the feminist movement, which eventually got rid of the oppression symbolised by the tight corset (which is further emphasised by the fact that she’s holding the lace). Differently from most of my other Demons, she has no wings, mainly because they wouldn’t suit the pose, but also because she’s the most “earthly” among all the Demons. Her Seal is on her shoulder blade because, due to her wayward temper, it’d have been hard to mark her anywhere else; she also has the Black Moon symbol on her forehead to represent her astrological connection. The fact that she’s holding the lace of the corset in her hand also represents her reining mankind’s sexuality. The theme-colour is a vermilion and alludes to her lustful and sensual nature.
Choosing a theme-song was quite hard, and I’ve changed my mind several times for years after the photo itself was published. Eventually, I settled for the beautiful Lilith by Susanne Sundfør.

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