In his essay for the new book on John William Waterhouse, art historian Peter Trippi observes that during the Victorian period there were a lot of paintings that associated women, water, and death. (Below: John Everett Millais “Ophelia”)
Some of these images showed women as tragic figures or martyrs; others took the form of the seductive femme fatale, who emerged from the water to lure men to their deaths. (Below: Herbert Draper “Ulysses and the Sirens”)…
…or sorceresses who poison rivals. (Waterhouse “Circe Invidiosa”)
This topic is explored in some detail by Barbara Gates, Professor of English at the University of Delaware. (Below: Delaroche “Young Christian Martyr.”
In this web article, Dr. Gates explores the subject of female drownings in the larger context of Victorian women and suicide. "Women were fictionalized and mythologized much as were monsters in Victorian England," she writes. "They too were made into "others" -- weaker vessels or demons, angels in the house or fallen angels."