Here is number 3 of my Femme Fatales series: Jezebel. The name is familiar, but for those of you unfamiliar with the story, here is an excerpt from the wiki article…
“Jezebel’s story is told in 1st and 2nd Kings, which details an intense religious-political struggle — the most detailed such account of any period in the history of the Kingdom of Israel. The account portrays the religious side of the events, with the political, economic and social background — highly important to modern historians — given only incidentally.
Jezebel was a Phoenician princess, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Phoenician empire. She married King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom (i.e. Israel during the time when ancient Israel was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south). She helped convert Ahab from worship of the Jewish God to worship of the Phoenician god Baal. After she had many Jewish prophets killed, Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a competition (1 Kings 18), exposed the rival god as powerless, and had the prophets of Baal slaughtered (1 Kings 18:40). Jezebel becomes his enemy.”
“The name Jezebel came to be associated with false prophets, and further associated by the early 20th century with fallen or abandoned women. In Christian lore, a comparison to Jezebel suggested that a person was a pagan or an apostate masquerading as a servant of God. By manipulation and/or seduction, she misled the saints of God into sins of idolatry and sexual immorality. In particular, Jezebel has come to be associated with promiscuity. In modern usage, the name of Jezebel is sometimes used as a synonym for sexually promiscuous and sometimes controlling women. In his two-volume Guide to the Bible (1967 and 1969), Isaac Asimov describes Jezebel’s last act: dressing in all her finery, make-up and jewelry, as deliberately symbolic, indicating her dignity, royal status and determination to go out of this life as a Queen.”
Putting aside all the religious and political issues, what struck me was the basic summation of the character: royal, manipulative, and sexual.
My kind of girl! Ta-dum-dum-tshhh!!
Seriously, I actually was planning on working on another femme next, Cleopatra, but that description made me jump to Jezebel. The series will comprise of 8 ladies, most from legend/antiquity: Morgana Le Fay, Circe the Witch (see previous posts for both), Cleopatra, Jezebel, Medea, Clytemnestra, Lilith, and Mata Hari (the only modern person). I read up on their myths/legends, noting how it has evolved over the course of the centuries in order to get a sense of what they may have looked like, or or a pose or expression which may hint at their character. I also try to research period appropriate clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, etc where applicable. I already have thumbnail sketches of what the series will look like, but for Jezebel I had no idea what I was going for, until I was slapped by a muse.
You see, a week ago or so I had a “like” from another blogger, actress Elena Levon, who has a travel blog here on wordpress. (link) I was reading a post of hers with photos of her walking with lions, and was struck at how much she reminded me of my Winsomme Wildwarden character. I sent her a note asking if I could use her as a reference, and she said yes. One of the crisper pics was from a gala event, and to my eye it coincidentally had all the trappings of Jezebel’s basic character. The slightly upraised tilt of her head reminded me of an air of royalty… that sense of superiority, of looking down on others. The eyes had the tiniest hint of a squint, which creates a sense of scheming or manipulation, and finally the full, slightly parted lips have the classic sexuality you still see on magazine covers today.
Unfortunately, though I made a good likeness, I do not think I captured the eyes as well as I wish, and the overall effect as I look at it now makes her seem more “interesting” than “dangerous”. The other thing that bugs me is the “hat” or crown. The basic sources of ancient Phoenician clothing we have are stone or clay sculptures. I do not know what material is being depicted… is it wood? fabric? gold? Is it even the right shape or is the sculpture a stylized version? Ah well, that is just me being picky. In the end what matters is that she exudes what the character means today, and I think I did okay.