The subject of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Beloved,” is the power of woman's beauty, and is inspired by the biblical Song of Solomon.
The Pre-Raphaelites provided a form of escape for a country soon to be transformed by coal and steel production and its peripheral side effects of poverty and pollution. They envisaged art as a means of saving the human race and fulfilling the most important human aspirations, which they sought to communicate with the forgotten sources of spirituality.
The central figure (the bride) here, pulls back her veil to reveal her beauty and engages the viewer with her blue eyes and full red lips. The rich colors and exotic fabrics in which she is clothed heighten her sensuality.
Incidentally, the model for this painting was Elizabeth Siddal, who also posed for Millais' Ophelia. Siddal floated in a bathtub full of water to model the drowning Ophelia, as Millais painted daily into the winter. The water would slowly become icy cold as the artist became lost in his work. Siddal became very sick with a fever, and never fully recovered.