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Christina Rossetti; Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori)

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

Christina Rossetti; Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1877 - NPG 990 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Christina Rossetti; Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori)

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
chalk, 1877
16 3/4 in. x 19 in. (425 mm x 483 mm)
Given by the sitter's brother, William Michael Rossetti, 1895
Primary Collection
NPG 990

On display at The Watts Gallery, Compton


Dante Gabriel Rossetti played a leading part…

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Painter and poet. Artist associated with 22 portraits, Sitter in 29 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In August 1877 the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti went to convalesce near Herne Bay after an operation for what he described as 'a serious rupture of internal blood-vessels', now assumed to have been haemorrhoids. He was in acute pain and seriously depressed, and his mother Frances and his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti, went down to keep him company. For a while he thought that he might never paint again, but then undertook a number of sketches including this remarkable chalk double-portrait of his mother and sister which emphasises the family resemblance. We know from Treffry Dunn's portrait of Rossetti and Watts-Dunton (also in the Gallery's collection) that this portrait later hung on the wall in Rossetti's sitting-room at Cheyne Walk in London. The frame to the work seen in Treffry Dunn's portrait has been preserved; designed by the artist, it has inset squares at the corners.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 3022: Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Theodore Watts-Dunton (appears within the portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Marsh, Jan, Character Sketches: The Pre-Raphaelites, 1998
  • Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 47
  • Marsh, Jan, Insights: The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2005, p. 45
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 129
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 142
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 142
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 534
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 105, 174

Events of 1877back to top

Current affairs

Trial of social activists Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh following their publication of a book by the American birth-control campaigner Charles Knowlton, which suggested that working class families should be able to practice birth control. Although found guilty, the case was thrown out on a technical fault.

Art and science

The Grosevenor Gallery opens, founded by Sir Coutts Lindsay, as a rival to the Royal Academy. It exhibited work by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane, outside of the British mainstream, and became famous as the home of the Aesthetic movement.
The first Lawn Tennis Championship is held at Wimbledon with around 20 male competitors, witnessed by a few hundred spectators. Spencer Gore the first singles champion, wins 12 guineas.


The American inventor Thomas Edison invents the tin foil phonograph, combining the technologies of the telegraph and telephone. Experimenting with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, he recorded and played back the short message 'Mary had a little lamb'.

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