OIL PAINTING: Frontispiece to the Dial: The Worm, 1886
Ricketts's naked girl is a sacrificial virgin - she holds a white lily symbolising purity. Her long flowing hair is Rossettian (another of Ricketts's heroes) but the richly decorated figure is inspired by Moreau's women, such as the figure of Salome in L'Apparition. The worm, apparently an enormous slow- worm, has seemingly come to consume her, although it looks distinctly unthreatening and the woman not tremendously concerned. Ricketts may have had in mind legends of the Laidly Worm, immortalised by Walter Crane's painting of 1881, although this creature was placated with offerings of milk rather than human sacrifice. The landscape elements of the print and the flat colouring are inspired by Japanese prints, popular in aesthetic and decadent circles at this time and collected eagerly by Ricketts. Critical responses to the first issue of The Dial were poor. The Magazine of Art (Dec. 1889) dismissed it as "nudity and nonsense", clearly partly a reference to the frontispiece, while the Academy (31 Aug. 1889) stated that the "cover, initial letters and the plates alike make a fresh appeal to feelings and to methods that have yet to win popularity in this country". Sent an unsolicited copy, Oscar Wilde responded "It is quite delightful but do not bring out a second number, all perfect things should be unique.