Poetry and Images About the Murder of Women

Murder! As grisly as the subject is, there has always been something about it that fascinates me. The very act of taking another person’s life in cold blood is so gruesome that it feels, at times, impossible to comprehend. Even so, I find myself drawn to artistic pieces that relate to the topic of murder, particularly those that reflect the murder of women.

Perhaps it is the depiction of the constant struggle between man and women that so often enraptures me, or maybe it is the desire to see behind the minds of the people who commit this most heinous of crimes. Whatever it is, I find my emotions stirred, though rarely positively, by the masterpieces of murder.

The same must have been true of so many poets and artists throughout the centuries, as there is no shortage of work depicting the act. Perhaps it is an overall sad indictment on the state of society that murder is so commonly featured in art, yet at the same time it always piques our curiosity and, in a perverse sense, deep down inside, many of us find ourselves searching for more in our efforts to understand the motivations and the madness that stand behind the act.

Here I will examine one of my favourite poems about the subject and a few pieces of art that I really believe all of you must take the time to explore.

Lara By Lord Byron

A tale of political intrigue leading to battle and murder, this epic poem was created by Lord Byron, who has somewhat of a reputation as a master wordsmith.

It is difficult to select a favoured passage from the piece, due to its monolithic size and the sheer depth and expression laced throughout each and every word. However, I have always found myself drawn to the following passage in particular:

“But gasping heaved the breath that Lara drew,
And dull the film along his dim eye grew;
His limbs stretch’d fluttering, and his head droop’d o’er
The weak yet still untiring knee that bore:
He press’d the hand he held upon his heart —
It beats no more, but Kaled will not part
With the cold grasp, but feels, and feels in vain,
For that faint throb which answers not again.

“It beats!” — Away, thou dreamer! he is gone —
It once was Lara which thou look’st upon.”

Depicting the death of the titular character, this wonderful poem may not be about a woman, but it depicts the death of the Lara as leading to the death of his lands, which are often referred to in the feminine throughout the poem. It is a wonderful piece and one that I definitely recommend all of you take the time to read.

Pieces of Art

Depictions of murder in paintings are far more common and thus it is much more difficult to select just one that truly captures me. After all, a painting is a much more shocking and visceral depiction of the act of murder and so it is, for me at least, far easier to get drawn into the image and allow my mind to wander about what lies behind it.

Even so, I will attempt to offer a selection here and I will start with WR Sickert’s “The Camden Town Murder Series”. Painted throughout the early 20th centuries, the series is clearly inspired by the work of the infamous Jack the Ripper, the undiscovered murderer who killed five women in London in a very short space of time. In fact, the works are so convincing in their depictions of murder that some conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to claim that Sickert himself was the infamous Jack.

I don’t believe that to be the case. Instead, I see this series as a social commentary of the state of the era. Sickert’s work focuses primarily on poverty and desperation and how these issues can lead to even the most heinous of crimes, both acting as a motivation and also creating the vulnerability that allows women to be preyed upon. It is art laced with compassion for the subject.

René Magritte’s “The Menaced Assassin” draws me in because of its surrealism and its depiction of a murderer who is completely unaware of the fact that his comeuppance lies just around the corner. The depiction of a murdered female is shocking, as too is the casual tone the painting takes as a whole. The murdered seems almost nonchalant in his posture and actions, while the two detectives waiting to apprehend him appear not to be distressed by the grisly scene.

In many ways, the painting demonstrates how crime and its punishment exists co-dependently. Without one, you may not have the other and “The Menaced Assassin” demonstrates this in all of its surrealist glory. It is a truly remarkable piece and one that I believe does not receive the credit that it is due.

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