Image via WikipediaArt likes to imitate culture. So when I write, I like to research the art of the time and place I'm working with...unfortunately, I don't ALWAYS find what I need.
Example: Byzantines and Turks. Byzantine artwork is two-dimentional and interesting, but not the muse I need. Turks...well, in Islam sculptures of animals and pictures of people (besides loved ones) are frowned upon.
It has to do with idolatry. If you don't own sculptures, you can't worship them, see? Same thing goes for the pictures, which is why mosques only use floral patterns and calligraphy as decorative motifs.
Plus...creepy idea...angels won't come into your house if you have sculptures. Something about demons chasing them away. Remember Interview with a Vampire ? The part where all the statues in the garden had eyes at night...yeah...creepy like that!
I had to look elsewhere for inspiration. Lucky for me, I had one piece of art in my head for years and it falls into the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Pre-Raphaelites love the Greeks and Byzantines kind of fall into the same vein, no? But I didn't KNOW which painting was my muse until I wrote a scene description remarkably like Flaming June (above) by Sir Frederick Leighton. (Do you see it, Leigh?) When I read the draft, I recognized the image and pulled it up on the internet. Then more details jumped out at me.
I love the toxic Oleander in the corner...it led me to another scene description. And the serpentine, yin/yang position of the model led me in another direction still...Then the fluidity of the fabric, the sensuality and vulnerability of the scene that my MC would only show if she was sleeping... So much inspiration in this one work of art and yet it was auctioned off in the 60's for $140! Someone should be kicking himself now! :)
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse floated around with me for years too, and it's still one of my favorites. It reminds me of my Arthurian stage and studying Hamlet in high school. It's Ophelia's fault that I'm stuck on the symbolism of flowers, btw. Rue, rosemary, ahh!
But what does this have to do with Sultans? Maybe some of you have read stories of Sultans paying any price for a beautiful redhead? Sultans are part of the reason my MC has red hair, but the Pre-Raphaelites are my primary cause. Yes, Sybil has Pre-Raphaelite hair... :) Modernized a bit because it's straight, but the root of my inspiration none the less! There isn't a single sultan in my story. (And doesn't a fiery djinn need red hair?)
Has art inspired you to write? Does it sneak in without you looking, or do you consciously make an effort to include art in your work?
PS... Untamed Pre-Raphaelite hair hits Chanel's Front Row in this related article: