In "In An Artist's Studio," what kind of relationship does the man have with the woman he is painting in Christina Rossetti's poem?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear that this poem presents us with the relationship between an artist and his muse. Note how, in a variety of guises, the artist presents the same "one face" over and over and over, whether it is depicting her as a "saint" or an "angel." However, note how Christina Rossetti presents their relationship and the disturbing and rather sinister way it is described:

He feeds upon her face by day and night,

And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,

Fair as the moon and joyful as the light;

Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;

Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Can we infer that the muse is in love with the artist? If so, she is to be pitied, and deservedly so, for all he sees in her is an art form to be endlessly copied and depicted in different shapes. He has no care for her, instead "feeding on her face" in a disturbing fashion. She is depicted not as she is in reality, but as nothing more than a male fantasy, "as she fills his dream." Any personal existence or reality she can lay claim to is ignored as she looks back at him with "true kind eyes" and waits to be ceaselessly objectified.

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