Dante Gabriel Rossetti
1 portrait on display in the Room 28 wallcase at the National Portrait Gallery
- Extended catalogue entry
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Pencil on paper, circa 1875-1880
3 3/4 in. x 3 in. (95 mm x 76 mm)
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This portraitback to top
This comical self-image was one of a group of ‘fugitive drawings’ on notepaper by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, identified in 1939 as belonging to ‘their correspondence with William Morris’ by Robert Steele, acting as executor to May Morris (NPG 3049).  According to NPG director Henry Hake, ‘Dr. Steele told me that he was going to deposit these in the [BM] Print Room and I particularly urged on him the importance of this drawing which was the most uncompromising view of an artist by himself.’  Steele returned with the sketch a week later, saying he ‘would be willing to give this to the Gallery if we were able to exhibit it’. 
The work probably came from the residual papers of Jane [Mrs William] Morris, whose correspondence with Rossetti was more extensive than that of her husband.  From Rossetti’s self-mocking appearance, the caricature dates from the last decade of his life, when he was both rotund and bald. It was perhaps scribbled in response to one of Jane’s requests for letters of a less gloomy nature. Much swifter in execution than Rossetti’s other caricatures drawn to amuse friends, its difference can be seen in comparison with the image of himself before a wombat’s tomb (see ‘All known portraits, Self-portraits, 1869’). It contrasts dramatically with NPG 857, and its humour is poignant, given that from 1872 to his death, Rossetti was afflicted with severe paranoid depression.
Dr Jan Marsh
Footnotesback to top
1) The Steele Gift to the NPG eventually comprised some 70 items, many from the Morris family collection and including a large number of photographs of the Morris and Burne-Jones circle. Other sketches and caricatures in an album formerly belonging to Jane Morris were presented to the BM, London.
2) Memorandum by H.M. Hake, 20 Mar. 1939, NPG RP 3048.
3) Memorandum by H.M. Hake, 28 Mar. 1939, NPG RP 3048.
4) See Bryson 1976; letter 64 is one example of Jane Morris’s replies.
Physical descriptionback to top
Provenanceback to top
Probably Jane Morris; May Morris, by whose executor Dr Robert Steele presented, 1939.
Reproductionsback to top
Marsh 1999, facing p.243.
View all known portraits for Dante Gabriel Rossetti