“Hold thou thy heart against her shining hair, If, by thy fate, she spread it once for thee; For, when she nets a young man in that snare, So twines she him he never may be free.”
“Lilith” from Goethe, as translated
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The works of Pre-Raphaelite masters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John William Waterhouse characteristically feature beautiful women with long, flowing hair. Over and over again, images of lustrous locks appear within this renowned art movement, leading one to wonder what symbolism a woman’s hair represents in these masterpieces and how we can infuse a bit of that allure into our own hair care today.

One remarkable example of employing a woman’s hair as a symbolic feature can be found in Rossetti’s Lady Lilith, which was completed in 1868 and depicts the figure Lilith of Judaic literature. Rossetti imbues Lilith with a sense of power and seduction as she combs her long, beautiful mane and admires her own reflection. An expression of tranquility seems to rest on her face, giving the impression that the lady is aware of her influence and perhaps even revels in the enchantment of her own beauty.

This concept of a woman’s hair as a symbol of power is again represented in a later piece by John William Waterhouse entitled A Mermaid (1900). In this ethereal painting we are spectator to an intimate scene of a mermaid perched on the shore as she runs a brush through her long, thick hair. The sinuous nature of the mermaid’s expanse of hair mirrors her serpentine tail curled beneath her, hinting at her mysterious and potentially dangerous powers. Unlike Rossetti’s Lilith, the mermaid appears unconscious of her own allure, although mythology warns of this sea siren who is notorious for luring men to a dark and deadly fate.

Among many other cultural and historical influences, Pre-Raphaelite art offers an examination of Victorian feminine ideals and the era’s characteristic appreciation for the power of idealized female beauty and allure, tinged with a sense of awe and fear of the enchantments such beauty holds.

What charms might your own beautiful locks possess? Let your hair flow free and untamed, healthy and lustrous, with these nourishing botanical recipes you can make at your kitchen table.


Whether curly, straight, or wavy, thin or thick, healthy hair starts at the scalp. Use this nourishing oil before shampooing and your gorgeous locks will thank you! For an added boost, make it a hot oil treatment and luxuriate in the soothing warmth as you soak in the botanical goodness.

Jojoba oil makes a wonderful scalp treatment because it closely resembles the natural oils of the scalp and is easily absorbed into the skin. It also contains lots of beneficial nutrients and is an excellent moisturizer. Lavender essential oil is ideal for all scalp types including normal, dry, and oily. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties support scalp health, and lavender oil is touted as being beneficial for those with dandruff.

2 to 4 tablespoons jojoba oil (adjust depending on length)
15 to 30 drops lavender essential oil

Mix the jojoba oil and lavender essential oil in a small glass bowl. If using as a hot oil treatment, gently warm the mixture by placing the bowl in a pot of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes until the oil is warm to the touch but not hot.

Now you’re ready to dress your tresses! Start by dipping your fingertips into the oil and gently massage into your scalp, making sure your fingers reach the skin and not just the top layer of your hair. Moving on to your hair, pour some of the oil into your hand, rub it between your palms and gradually work the oil evenly through to the ends, using your fingers to comb through as needed. Enjoy this relaxing, meditative moment … perhaps imagine yourself as Waterhouse’s mermaid, languidly combing your gorgeous locks as you look out to the vast and beautiful sea beyond the shore.

After applying the oil treatment, cover with a towel and let it sit for 30 minutes (or overnight for maximum effectiveness). Finish with your favorite gentle shampoo and conditioner, or the following conditioning rinse.


Use this conditioning rinse after shampooing and enjoy luxurious locks worthy of a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece!

The apple cider vinegar in this recipe balances the pH of your hair and scalp for soft and silky tresses. This rinse is also great for removing shampoo residue for a healthy scalp and will boost thickness and manageability for gorgeous locks you’ll revel in brushing, much like Rossetti’s Lady Lilith.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
5 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

In a squeeze bottle, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, and essential oil (if using). Close the top and shake to blend the mixture. After shampooing, use a towel to dry some of the water from your hair before applying the rinse. Starting at your scalp and working down to the ends, apply the rinse by massaging gently into your scalp and combing it through with your fingers. Let it sit for a few minutes to work its nourishing magic before rinsing with cool water. Depending on your hair type, you may want to finish with your favorite natural conditioner. Enjoy your gorgeously silky voluminous tresses and discover what enchantments your own natural beauty may spin!

Previous articleUseful and Beautiful William Morris’s Red House
Next articleTips for Decorating in Pre-Raphaelite Style
Anna Krusinski
Anna Krusinski is the creator of Willow & Birch Apothecary, a Victorian-inspired apothecary and perfumery in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York where she creates natural bath and beauty products. Visit her shop at shopwillowandbirch.com and follow her on Instagram @wbapothecary.