Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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brief biography 

DGR: an Overview

The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel 
General history of Rossetti's paintings Pre-Raphaelite women (local)
  1. Rossetti's images of women
  2. Rossetti and his patrons
  3. Rossetti's influence on Munch
1. Rossetti's images of women (1. The Lady of Shalott and his medieval sources; other images of Shalott)
1. Medievalism & death 
"Not only the poses of the principal figures but also the water in the background and the crowd of onlookers in the final version echo the organization of the fourteenth-century illustration (see below).  In using this as a source, Rossetti, in effect, went one step further than Tennyson in authenticity, as Tennyson's main soucre was Malory's book, first printed ...in 1485" (Faxon 92-93). 

2. personal significance 
"...the knight is shown gazing at the dead Lady of Shalott, just as Rossetti would gaze at beauty, especially feminine beauty, and transform it into art" (Faxon 93) 

*Why dead beauty but not a lively one?


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Lady of Shallott, 1857 
Wood engraving, 35/16 x 31/16 in. 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lancelot du Lac, (Folio 65v, Add MS 10294), c. 1316-20 
The British Library, London
Lancelot du Lac, (Folio 91v, Add MS 10294), c. 1316-20 
The British Library, London
2. the spiritual 


 3. the use of frames 

Above  La Donna Della Finestra, 1879 

DGR's late work  "Rosseti himself consider this his best work" (27) 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Blessed Damozel, 1875-78 
Oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 37 in 
The Harvard University Art Museum (with Alice Wilding as the model for the Damozel) 

3. the Fleshly 
"Rossetti use Lilith to represent the 'Body's Beauty,' in contrast to the Soul's Beauty' of Sibylla Palmifera.  ... Lilith was Adam's first wife--a seductress and demon woman who gave birth only to devils and who wanted equal rights in everything" (203) 
Study of the figure of the Virgin for "Ecce Ancilla Domini!"  

Can you imagine the Virgin, or Christina Rossetti, like this?

The influence of patrons on DGR (see below for examples) 
"It has been suggested that the subjects and handling of Rossetti's late paintings were influenced by his patrons' desires; and the artist has been characterized as 'a prisoner, albeit a willing prisoner, of his own business arrangements.' ... 
Because he did not exhibit at the Royal Academy or London galleries, Rossetti was dependent on a small group of picture buyers, mostly from the rising merchant class in provincial industrial centers.   ....(164) 
"Rossetti described his patrons' taste: 'They are special men who buy special things and lmost never effect a divergence from their limited loves.'  Leyland, for example, liked single-gigure compositions with musical instruments in them ...  Twollectors, Leyland and Graham (the two who owned the greatest number of Rossetti's paintings), displayed his work alongside that of Renaissance painters." (Faxon 169)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Monna Vanna, 1866 
Oil on canvas, 35 x 34 in. 
Tate Gallery, London 
"Writing about the painting, Stephens said: "Monna Vanna or The Lady with the Fan . . . has something that is evanescent and fickle in her expression, a self-centered character revealed by every feature, lovely as they are. . . A heart-shaped jewel of clear white crystal is suspended on her breast, a hard, cold, colourless gem that is significant of her soul and its influences" (Faxon 162). 
*Self-possessed, self-centered, or being possessed?
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sibylla Palmifera, 1866-70 (or Soul's Beauty) 
Oil on canvas, 37 x 32 1/2 in. 
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, England 
"The palm in the woman's right hand may refer to the traditional symbol of victory, in this case symbolizing the triumph of beauty or the soul over death; the butterflies at right are traditional symbols of the soul." 

*triumph of soul OR beauty?  
**Why are these two images of Alice Wilding (another of Rossetti's model who was  a dress-maker when meeting DGR) so different?

Rossetti's influence on Munch 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Detail of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, 1855
Edward Munch The Kiss, 1897 
Hand-colored woodcut.   
Other paintings of Romantic love.
Faxon, Alicia Craig.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  New York: Abreville Press, 1989.