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The Rossetti family

3 of 5 portraits of Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori)

The Rossetti family, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), 7 October 1863 -NPG P1273(25b) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

The Rossetti family

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Albumen print, 7 October 1863
5 7/8 in. x 7 in. (150 mm x 177 mm)
NPG P1273(25b)


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This portraitback to top

For a full description of this photographic session, see NPG P29. [1]

The Rossetti family referred to this image as ‘the rainy group’. [2] As Christina wrote, ‘It was our aim to appear in the full family group of five, but whilst various others succeeded, that particular negative was spoiled by a shower, and I possess a solitary print from it in which we appear as if splashed by ink.’ [3] The erroneous assumption that the ‘splashes’ of liquid on the image were caused by rain had been earlier corrected by William Michael Rossetti, writing, ‘Another photograph … exhibits the whole family group – Dante Rossetti with his mother, two sisters and brother; he is looking down over the shoulder of his mother, who is playing chess with the elder sister. This photograph is damaged by some splashing of chemicals; one of the splashes coming over Rossetti’s face.’[4]

When asking Dodgson for prints, Christina (ordering on behalf of the family) requested twelve copies of ‘my sister in the rainy group’, which suggests that a vignette of Maria Rossetti was made or promised by Dodgson, although no such prints are now known. No requests were made for copies of the whole image, and the number of prints made from the negative is uncertain. Despite Christina’s reference to a ‘solitary print’, two originals were owned by the family: the present work, included in an album of miscellaneous photographs compiled by W.M. Rossetti in 1898 and until recently in family possession; and a slightly larger version, published in 1991 (see ‘Reproductions’), from a print which passed from W.M. Rossetti’s daughter Helen Angeli to William E. Fredeman in 1963. [5] A third original is said to have been in John Hillelson’s possession in 2002. [6] No print is preserved in any of Dodgson’s surviving personal albums, and it does not appear in a list of available images he sent to Christina in 1882. [7]

The print is from a Rossetti album offered for sale to the National Portrait Gallery by the antiquarian booksellers Ian Hodgkins & Co. Ltd. The album bears W.M. Rossetti’s label, ‘24: Gabriel, Family, Miscellaneous’ and is inscribed on the fly-leaf ‘W.M. Rossetti / 1898’. The album contains a selection of mostly albumen prints, by various photographers, six being those taken by Dodgson in October 1863; see also NPG P29, NPG P56 and NPG P1273(21b).

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Print NI1133 in Edward Wakeling’s updated Register of Dodgson photographs; formerly no.1131? in Taylor & Wakeling 2002.
2) Letter from C.G. Rossetti to C.L. Dodgson, c. Nov. 1863; Harrison 1997–2004, vol.1, no.200, p.185. In this letter, four group photos are cited, together with the solo portrait of Rossetti holding his hat.
3) C.G. Rossetti, ‘Tudor House’, Literary Opinion, 1892, pp.127–9; extract quoted Fredeman 2002–10, vol.3, letter 63:90 n.1, p.80.
4) Rossetti 1889a, p.59.
5) Fredeman 1991, frontispiece.
6) Taylor & Wakeling 2002, p.256.
7) Letter from C.L. Dodgson to C.G. Rossetti, 16 Aug. 1882; see Harrison 1997–2004, vol.3, no.1051, p.68.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, standing in family group, with (left to right) Christina Georgina Rossetti (seated); Frances Lavinia Rossetti (seated); William Michael Rossetti (leaning on chairback); Maria Francesca Rossetti (seated).

Provenanceback to top

William Rossetti; Rossetti Family by descent; Dominic Winter Book Auctions, June 2004 (34); Ian Hodgkins & Co, from whom purchased 2007.

Exhibitionsback to top

The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris and His Circle from Canadian Collections, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1993.

Reproductionsback to top

Reproductions of NPG P1273(25b)
None known.

Other reproductions of the image
Fredeman 1991, frontispiece (from another print).

View all known portraits for Dante Gabriel Rossetti