The most famous work by British artist Sir Philip Burne-Jones (1861-1926) is, without a doubt, The Vampire. This painting shows a beautiful woman smiling demonically over an unconscious man. The clothing of both and the dark texture of the setting give the painting an extremely Gothic feel. There is not, however, any sign of a wound on the male victim and the female “vampire” does not have the stereotypical fangs and bloodshot eyes. This painting is obviously depicting a case of the devil appearing as an angel of light.
The woman in the painting bears a great resemblance to British actress and femme fatale Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1865-1940). Supposedly, Burne-Jones was head-over-heels in love with Campbell and the two were romantically involved for some time. It was Campbell, however, who eventually ended their relationship. The Vampire did not appear until after their separation. Burne-Jones clearly felt that he had been victimized by the actress.
The supposed scandal as well as the rather risqué posture of the female made The Vampire quite repulsive to the Victorian public. It did, however, inspire a rather unusual poem of the same name by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).
Like Burne-Jones’ painting, Kipling’s poem does not specifically deal with vampirism. Instead, it tells the story of a man who is foolish enough to allow a woman to completely consume and then abandon him. Click here to read the poem.
Kipling’s poem later inspired American playwright Porter Emerson Brown (1879-1934) to write a drama titled A Fool There Was. The title was taken from the first line of Kipling’s poem. The play, which has now been completely forgotten, was the basis for a 1915 silent film of the same name.
The film stars Edward Jose (1880-1930) as John Schuyler, a lawyer who is corrupted by a seductive woman known solely as the Vampire. The Vampire was played by early sex symbol Theda Bara (1885-1955). Most of the title cards in the film are taken directly from Kipling’s poem. A Fool There Was is widely considered Hollywood’s first vampire movie.
Philip Burne-Jones’ painting was first exhibited in 1897. Interestingly, 1897 was also the year when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first published.