Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Theodore Watts-Dunton
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Theodore Watts-Dunton
by Henry Treffry Dunn
gouache and watercolour, 1882
21 3/8 in. x 32 1/4 in. (543 mm x 819 mm) overall
Sittersback to top
This portraitback to top
In this portrait the poet reads the proofs of his Ballads and Sonnets to Watts-Dunton. They are sitting together in the ground-floor drawing-room of the house they shared in Cheyne Walk, a room which was described by the artist Treffry Dunn as 'One of the prettiest and most curiously furnished old-fashioned parlours that I had ever seen. Mirrors and looking-glasses of all shapes, sizes and design lined the walls. Whichever way I looked I saw myself gazing at myself. What space there was left was filled up with pictures, chiefly old and of an interesting character'. The picture above Watts-Dunton's head is Rossetti's double portrait of his mother Lavinia and his sister, the poet Christina, which is also in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
More on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Theodore Watts-Dunton: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Theodore Watts-Dunton featured in augmented reality app
Related worksback to top
- NPG 990: Christina Rossetti; Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori) (appears within the portrait)
Linked publicationsback to top
- 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. 135
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 150
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 150 Read entry
This is an example of a portrait that exemplifies character by reference to the sitter's surroundings. It shows the artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti reading the proofs of his Ballads and Sonnets to Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832-1914), a solicitor with literary inclinations who became the companion of Rossetti's later years. They are sitting together in the ground-floor drawing-room of the house they shared in Cheyne Walk, a room which was described by the artist Henry Treffry Dunn as 'One of the prettiest and most curiously furnished old-fashioned parlours that I had ever seen. Mirrors and looking-glasses of all shapes, sizes and design lined the walls. Whichever way I looked I saw myself gazing at myself. What space there was left was filled up with pictures, chiefly old and of an interesting character.' It is likely that the work was undertaken posthumously as a record of the interor, since Dunn, who had previously been a studio assistant to Rossetti, acted as guardian of his effects after the artist's death on Easter Day 1882.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 534
Placesback to top
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, London (sitters' home, Cheyne Walk, London)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1882back to top
Current affairsThe Ashes Test cricket series is born. The series gets its name from a satirical obituary published in the English newspaper The Sporting Times, stating that English cricket had died and its cremated body was being taken back to Australia, after England, with batsmen W. G. Grace and Charles Studd, lost the first home match to Australia at the Oval.
The Married Women's Property Act is passed, securing equal property rights between married couples.
Art and scienceEadweard Muybridge, British photographer, exhibits his images of animal and human motion, captured with his 'zoopraxiscope', a motion-picture machine recreating movement by displaying individual photographs in rapid succession, at the Royal Academy and Royal Institution. His studies and inventions contributed to the development of motion pictures, with E.J. Marey and the Lumiere brothers acknowledging his impact.
InternationalThe Zioinist movement begins, with the first wave of Jewish immigrants to Palestine, at this time part of the Ottoman empire. The Jewish people were in Diaspora, spread across the world, and Palestine, the place of Jewish origin but now also occupied by Muslims and Christians, seemed a logical place for a settlement.
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