Waterhouse would take ancient tales of romance as the basis for many of his paintings but this artwork was inspired by something much more recent. Tennyson writings can be found in several other pieces from this artist, but The Soul of the Rose is certainly one of his most famous.
The way in which the female smells the flower is particularly sensual and something the viewer can easily access in their own mind. This underlines most of Waterhouse's paintings, where femininity and elegance hold firm alongside touches of nature. This beautiful composition features detail across the model's clothing as well small amounts of architecture which support the main focus point.
The Pre-Raphaelite movement was devoted to the beautiful female form, not just Waterhouse himself. Several models would even feature in different artist's work and there became a certain look which was best suited to this art movement, typically tall, slim and brunette with particularly pale skin and rosy cheeks. There was an element of purity to these women who would also be dressed in classic but elegant clothing to complete each composition.
The popular aspect of the Pre-Raphaelites is perhaps their connection between the beauty of nature and the female body. There is also an element of mythical narrative in many of the works though Waterhouse would sometimes diverge from that and take more recent influences. The larger, detailed image below allows you to really appreciate the delicate touches that the artist put into this canvas, as well as clarifying the specfic palette used by Waterhouse.