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The Rossetti Family

1 of 6 portraits of Christina Rossetti

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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The Rossetti Family

by Lewis Carroll
albumen print, 7 October 1863
6 7/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (175 mm x 222 mm)
Given by Helen Macgregor, 1978
Primary Collection

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  • Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 12 Read entry

    This photograph is one of a series of the Rossetti family taken by Lewis Carroll on 7 October 1863 in the garden of the house in Cheyne Walk, London, that belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82). Although best remembered as an artist, Dante Gabriel (standing on the left of the group) was also a significant, if controversial, poet. Seated next to him is his sister, Christina (1830-94), one of the greatest poets of the Victorian period, while standing on the right, beside their mother Frances (1800-86), is William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), a distinguished art critic and historian.

  • Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 9 Read entry

    This photograph was taken in the garden of Tudor House, Chelsea, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), the author of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, who was a keen and skilful photographer. It was a 'memorable day', he recorded. The members of the Rossetti family pictured include (from left to right) Dante Gabriel, Christina, Frances Lavinia and William Michael.

  • Marsh, Jan, Insights: The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2005, p. 10
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 732
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 147 Read entry

    This portrait of the Rossetti family was one of a series taken in the garden of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s house, 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, during a four-day session in October 1863. The photographer was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–98), better known under his pseudonym Lewis Carroll as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Dante Gabriel (1828– 82), poet and founding artist of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, stands prominently to the left beside his seated sister Christina (1830–94), the celebrated poet of ‘Remember’ (1850) and ‘Goblin Market’ (1862), their mother Frances (1800–86) and brother William Michael (1829–1919), an art critic and literary editor. Significantly, this is the only portrait grouping to feature both Dante Gabriel and Christina. On receipt of the set of photographs, Dante Gabriel wrote to Dodgson (13 March 1864): ‘the three groups are all very good, I think – the best being that with 4 figures only’. William Michael described the portrait of his brother as ‘an excellent likeness, in an easy and simple attitude. One here sees Rossetti’s stature and figure better than in any other portrait; the figure now rather fleshy and bulky ... “nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” [‘in the middle of the journey of our life’, from Dante’s The Inferno] for he was now thirty-five years of age.’

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Current affairs

The opening of the world's first underground railway, with the Metropolitan Railway running trains between Bishop's Street, Padington and Farringdon. Work had begun in 1860, using the 'cut-and-cover' method of construction. The Metropolitan line inspired the construction of other underground railways - the Parisian 'Metro' took its name from the line.
The Football Association is founded.

Art and science

Julia Margaret Cameron takes up photography, taking portraits of some of the most celebrated figures of the day, with her romantic style capturing the sense of nostalgia and longing that characterised the age.
Kingsley's Water Babies; A Fairy Tale for Children is published, the hugely popular tale of drowned chimney sweep Tom's moral education in the river world of the water babies. It inspired the 1978 film starring James Mason.


At an international conference, the Geneva Public Welfare Society calls on the sixteen nations present to form voluntary units to help the wartime wounded. The society, comprised of five Swiss citizens and led by Henri Dunant, who had been deeply affected by the casualties he had witnessed at the Battle of Solferino, became the National Red Cross Societies, adopting the emblem of a red cross on white background.

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