The Borgias

The infamous Borgia clan is once again generating interest thanks to a new series on Showtime. One of my favorite art history blogs, Three Pipe Problem, has an excellent post about the Borgia family and the new series.   I missed last night’s debut, so I cannot offer an opinion on the production yet, but … Read more

Dante Gabriel Rossetti illustrates Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven

Who doesn’t love Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven?  A masterful poem of mourning, loss and visitation in which the poem’s speaker is grief-stricken with the death of his beloved Lenore and is haunted by memories.  Enter the raven with his repetitive message “Nevermore”!   Dante Gabriel Rossetti drew his illustration of  The Raven around 1848, … Read more

Burne-Jones: The Blessed Damozel

The Blessed Damozel, painted by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, is based on a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the same name.   Rossetti was nineteen when he wrote The Blessed Damozel, which tells the tale of two lovers who will one day be reunited in heaven. “The blessed damozel leaned out From the gold bar of … Read more

The Maids of Elfin-Mere

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first published illustration was The Maids of Elfen-Mere, drawn to illustrate a ballad by William Allingham titled “The Maids of Elphin-Mere”.  The Rossetti Archive includes it in their collection note: “DGR’s illustration was made for Allingham’s ballad “The Maids of Elfin-Mere”, which was published in The Music Master, A Love Story, and … Read more

The Keepsake

Painted in 1901, The Keepsake by Kate Bunce is based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem The Staff and Scrip.  The Staff and Scrip is a heroic and romantic tale of a pilgrim who finds himself in a land ruled by Queen Blanchelys.   The pilgrim is shocked by the state of this land and is told in the first stanza that the villainous Duke Luke has ‘harried them’.   The pilgrim makes his way to Queen Blanchelys, falls in love with her, and vows to defeat Duke Luke. In the course of defeating Duke Luke, the pilgrim loses his life.   His staff and scrip are kept by the Queen — hung over her bed as a tragic and romantic keepsake.

The Staff and Scrip

‘Who rules these lands?’ the Pilgrim said.
‘Stranger, Queen Blanchelys.’
‘And who has thus harried them?’ he said.
‘It was Duke Luke did this:
God’s ban be his!’

The Pilgrim said: ‘Where is your house?
I’ll rest there, with your will.’
‘You’ve but to climb these blackened boughs
And you’ll see it over the hill,
For it burns still.’

‘Which road, to seek your Queen?’ said he.
‘Nay, nay, but with some wound
You’ll fly back hither, it may be,
And by your blood i’ the ground
My place be found.’

‘Friend, stay in peace. God keep your head,
And mine, where I will go;
For He is here and there,’ he said.
He passed the hill-side, slow,
And stood below.

The Queen sat idle by her loom:
She heard the arras stir,
And looked up sadly: through the room
The sweetness sickened her
Of musk and myrrh.

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The Wine of Circe by Edward Burne-Jones, Poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote a sonnet inspired by this painting, which you can read a great deal of background on at The Rossetti Archive: DGR wrote the sonnet for the express purpose of having “some record of [Burne-Jones’] work in my book [i.e., in the 1870 Poems],” as he told Barbara Bodichon. “I have … Read more

Keats and the Pre-Raphaelites

I recently saw an interview with Jane Campion on Charlie Rose and was interested as she discussed her latest film, Bright Star.    Based on the three-year romance between  John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats’ untimely death at age 25. Keats was an inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites.   His poem The Eve … Read more

Hair Adornment in Rossetti Paintings

I love to search the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti because he adds so many details and symbolism.  It’s hard not to notice this beautiful spiral-shaped hair clip that seems to have migrated from one canvas to another: A Christmas Carol: The Bower Meadow: Mariana: Grace at The Beautiful Neccessity also has a post about … Read more

Images of Guinevere

Medievalism grew in popularity early in the nineteenth century England and had a definite influence on William Morris especially, who even rode a horse in a toy suit of armor as a child. It is interesting that the story of Lancelot and Guinevere can be seen as a parallel to the story of William Morris and … Read more

Annie Miller portrait soon to be auctioned

Via The Press Association: A portrait previously owned by LS Lowry of an “enthralling” artists’ muse will go under the hammer next month. The 1860 drawing of Annie Miller by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) is expected to fetch between £200,000 and £300,000. Annie Miller (1835-1925) was a striking model from a humble background, who “enthralled … Read more

St. George and the Princess Sabra

St. George and the Princess Sabra was painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1862. This was the last work that his wife, Lizzie Siddal, posed for before her death. I find myself searching her face, as if it were a photograph, looking for signs of what was to occur days later: her overdose of laudanum. The … Read more

Lucrezia Borgia

The tale of the Borgias captivated Rossetti. Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was the member of a ruthless political family. Her father Rodrigo Borgia eventually became Pope Alexander VI. We see her in Rossetti’s painting washing her hands after the poisoning of her husband, Duke Alfonso Bisceglie. Rossetti had a tendency to paint women’s arms and necks … Read more

The Blue Bower

  This painting is yet another of Rossetti’s works that depicts a woman playing music. It is also Rossetti’s last major portrait of Fanny Cornforth. I love the blue and white tile background, which is also reminiscent of the blue and white china that Rossetti and others in his circle collected. I highly recommend The Rossetti … Read more

Venus Verticordia

Venus Verticordia, painting and poem both by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Alexa Wilding posed for the painting, although I’ve read that Rossetti also used Fanny Cornforth. Venus Verticordia She hath the apple in her hand for thee, Yet almost in her heart would hold it back; She muses, with her eyes upon the track Of that … Read more

Ophelia and the Pre-Raphaelites

Ophelia is a captivating character, one that inspired many of the Pre-Raphaelites and other Victorian artists. For those unfamiliar with Ophelia, she is Hamlet’s innocent young love interest in one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Hamlet. Hamlet loved Ophelia – but after his meeting with the ghost of his father (Act I) he feels compelled to … Read more

A Valentine

Written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Elizabeth Siddal A VALENTINE Yesterday was St. Valentine. Thought you at all, dear dove divine, Upon the beard in sorry trim And rueful countenance of him, That Orson who’s your valentine? He daubed, you know, as usual. The stick would slip, then brush would fall: Yet daubed he till … Read more

Jane Morris: An Enigmatic Muse

In 1857, Rossetti and a small group of artists that included William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were working in Oxford, painting the Union Murals.  One night, they attended a performance put on by actors from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.  Seated in the gallery below were Jane Burden and her sister.  Rossetti, struck by Jane’s … Read more

The Blessed Damozel

The Blessed Damozel, Dante Gabriel Rossetti The blessed damozel leaned out From the gold bar of Heaven; Her eyes were deeper than the depth Of waters stilled at even; She had three lilies in her hand, And the stars in her hair were seven. Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem, No wrought flowers did … Read more

The Bower Meadow

The Bower Meadow, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1872. Featured in the foreground are Maria Spartali Stillman (left) and Alexa Wilding(right). I’m not sure about the women in the background. Musical instruments, such as the ones seen here, seem to figure prominently in many of Rossetti’s works Veronica Veronese, The Sea-Spell, La Ghirlandata to … Read more