Veronica Veronese

“The girl is in a sort of passionate reverie, and is drawing her hand listlessly along the strings of a violin which hangs against the wall, while she holds the bow with the other hands, as if arrested by the thought of the moment, when she was about to play.  In color, I shall make the picture a study of varied greens.” Dante Gabriel Rossetti describing Veronica Veronese to FR Leyland. 

Photograph of Alexa Wilding
Photograph of Alexa Wilding

Rossetti completed Veronica Veronese in 1872.  Alexa Wilding, one of his frequently used models, appears in a green gown borrowed from Jane Morris.  Jane herself was painted several times in green in Proserpine, Astarte Syriaca, The Day-Dream and more.  Is it possibly the same gown we see in Veronica Veronese?

'Proserpine', Dante Gabriel Rossetti
‘Proserpine’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti
'The Day Dream', Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1880)
‘The Day Dream’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1880)

The fan hanging from her gown in Veronica Veronese is the same one seen in Monna Vanna.

Fan in ‘Veronica Veronese’


'Monna Vanna', Dante Gabriel Rossetti
‘Monna Vanna’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Veronica Veronese includes a passage on the frame, written either by Rossetti or Swinburne  and attributed to The Letters of Girolamo Ridolfi.”Suddenly leaning forward, the Lady Veronica rapidly wrote the first notes on the virgin page.  Then she took the bow of the violin to make her dream reality; but before commencing to play the instrument hanging from her hand, she remained quiet for a few moments, listening to the inspiring bird, while her left hand strayed over the marriage of the voices of nature and the soul — the dawn of a mystic creation.”

Veronica Veronese is not merely a painting of a lovely woman, it is an allegory for the creation of art.  The song of the bird is pure and organic and inspires her composition.  In 1877, Walter Pater would famously say that “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” Although this was said several years after Rossetti completed Veronica Veronese, it fits.  Rossetti’s painting attempts to capture creativity in progress.  Even though the Lady Veronica looks curiously languid for one who is in the midst of inspiration, the beginnings of art are largely internal. It is her soul and her mind that are inspired.

It’s also partly inspired by the sixteenth century work Iconologia by Cesare Ripa.  In it, Art is personified as a woman.  Earlier in his career, Rossetti wrote Hand and Soul which showed the Soul as a beautiful woman.  It seems that beauty itself inspired in Rossetti an almost religious fervor.  Almost all of his works are images of beautiful women, but perhaps it is deeper than physical appreciation.  It is the pursuit of something that he expressed artistically through the feminine form.  Perhaps it was an appreciation of the Muse.  Or perhaps it was the notion that the ultimate way to represent Art, the Soul, and other ideals was through the beauty of Woman.

4 thoughts on “Veronica Veronese”

    • I live nearby, so I will be able to visit regularly. Several works in the Catalogue of and by Lizzie (The Holy Family; a portrait of her by DGR) are not hanging in the Gallery. I hope to be able to ask someone about them the next time I’m there. BTW, I love your site!.

  1. Forgot to mention that I’m also fully engrossed in your Lizzie Siddal Facebook Page! For the past several days I’ve been clicking on links, following leads, and cutting and pasting into a file your well-chosen excerpts about this remarkable woman. While I first became aware of the PRB in the Eighties, it wasn’t until recently that I starting looking into the lives of their models, the aptly named “Stunners”. Having long admired the art, poetry, and character of Christina Rossetti, I never dreamed that there was another woman who could come up to the high standard she set. The poetry especially of Miss Siddal was taken me by storm. It truly amazes me that the two women I admire most in literary history are the wife and sister of the same man! Lucky fellow!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.