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Christina Rossetti; Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori)

3 of 6 portraits of Christina Rossetti

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© 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


Dante Gabriel Rossetti played a leading part…

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

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

Related worksback to top

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

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Writers, p. 69
  • Marsh, Jan, Character Sketches: The Pre-Raphaelites, 1998
  • Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 47 Read entry

    'You may have seen that I got a portrait of Christina, along with my dear loving old Mother, into the National Portrait Gallery,' wrote William Rossetti to Swinburne. 'Christina had to be there one day, as a matter of course: but I greatly applaud myself on having thus wafted in my Mother by a side wind.'

  • 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 Read entry

    In August 1877 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, so both his mother, Frances (1800-86), and his sister, Christina (1830-94), 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 wonderful chalk drawing of his mother and sister together, their profiles so similar, Christina with prominent jaw and thyroid eyes, their mother's head bent forward with age. It was donated to the Gallery by William Michael Rossetti, the youngest member of the family, in September 1895, the year after Christina Rossetti's death.

  • 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 Read entry

    Gilt oak, reeded oak top section with inset corner squares, set on a pine carcass visible at the bevels, mitred and pinned, the back edge veneered in oak, the gilding directly onto oak prepared with a warm-toned size. 1 3⁄ 4 inches wide.

    In addition to his 'thumb-mark' pattern and a Watts frame with a punched leaf frieze (see NPG 5048), Rossetti's other favourite frame style of the 1860s was a reeded moulding with inset squares and roundels at intervals along the sides and at the corners. In this small chalk of his mother and sister of 1877, the insets are restricted to squares at the corners. The picture, which is in a gold-bevelled green mount, copying the original, can be seen in Treffry Dunn's view of Rossetti's sitting-room at Cheyne Walk. Similar frames are found on Rossetti's other chalks of the same date including the portrait of his mother (Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery) and that of Christina Rossetti (Private Collection).

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

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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