Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Painter and poet

Painter and poet; born 12 May 1828, in London, son of Italian exile and Dante scholar Gabriele Rossetti and brother to Maria, William Michael and Christina Rossetti. Trained at Royal Academy Schools and with Ford Madox Brown; with William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and others founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (first exhibits 1849) and contributed poetry and prose to The Germ (1850); after early success with Girlhood of Mary Virgin (Free Exh., Hyde Park Corner, 1849; Tate) and Ecce Ancilla Domini! (Portland G., 1850; Tate) largely ceased competitive exhibition, but gained reputation for quaint medieval subjects, followed in 1860s by Venetian-mode half-length female figures and in late 1870s by proto-Symbolist works; best known today for Beata Beatrix (1870, Tate) and Proserpine (1874, Tate); published translations from early Italian poets (1861) and original Poems (1870 and 1881), which in his lifetime were more widely known and admired than his pictures; serious mental disorder 1872 and declining health thereafter; died 9 April 1882, at Birchington, Kent.

He was recalled by a fellow-student as

a young man of decidedly foreign aspect, about 5 feet 7 1/4 in height … not taking care to walk erect but rolling carelessly as he slouched along … staring with dreaming eyes – the pupils not reaching the bottom lids – grey eyes, not looking directly at any point, but gazing listlessly about; the openings large and oval, the lower orbits dark-coloured. His nose was aquiline but delicate, with a depression from the frontal sinus shaping the bridge; the nostrils full, the brow rounded and prominent and the line of the jaw angular and marked…[1]

In later life, he grew corpulent. His youthful personality was vehement and headstrong, yet also courteous, generous and sociable; with the breakdown in health he became increasingly reclusive and paranoid.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) William Holman Hunt, writing in 1886; quoted Rossetti 1895, vol.1, p.95.

Referencesback to top

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