This painting has a complicated and elaborate symbolism. The Lady of Shalott is herself an artist and may reflect Hunt's own aesthetic on the consequences of turning away from duty and yielding to the temptations of the world rather than being removed from its material realities.
The lady's magnificent hair, blown by a stormy wind, frightens away the doves of peace that had settled next to her as she worked, the weaving ruined, as is her own life. The silver lamp on the right has owls decorating the top and sphinxes at the bottom to suggest wisdom triumphing over mystery, its light extinguished now that the she has succumbed to temptation. Hercules, portrayed to the right of the mirror, is given a halo to signify him as a type of Christ, his victory over the serpent guarding the apples in the garden of the Hesperides the pagan counterpart to Christ's victory over sin. To the left of the mirror, the Virgin Mary prays...
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