Dante Gabriel Rossetti—even his name is a work of art.
It is said that to understand him, we must first understand that although he is best remembered for his paintings, he was first and foremost a poet.
O lay your lips against your hand
And let me feel your breath through it,
While through the sense your song shall fit
The soul to understand.
Born in London to an English mother and Italian father in 1828, Rossetti’s childhood was suffused in the atmosphere of medieval Italy. As a literary scholar, his father obsessed over the works of Dante and spoke mostly Italian.
Home schooled, Rossetti often read the Bible, along with the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and William Blake. He became fascinated with the Gothic horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
These influences would become a major source of artistic inspiration for Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Attending preparatory art school followed by the Royal Academy, Rossetti soon grew tired of the mechanistic approach to teaching and preferred to stay at home painting what he desired.
He saw early Victorian art as trivial, sentimental and unimaginative and yearned for a return to pre-Renaissance purity of style and aim.
Poetry and image are closely intertwined in Rossetti’s work. Appreciating female beauty through art was sacred to him. In both poetry and painting, he explored his own fantasies and conceptions about earthly and spiritual love through the theme of female beauty.
In 1850, Rossetti met Elizabeth Siddal, who would become an important model for the Pre-Raphaelite painters. First spotted by a friend in a London hat shop, she became Rossetti’s muse, passion, and eventually his wife.
When vain desire at last and vain regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
And teach the unforgetful to forget?
Join us in the Gallery as we listen to DeBussey’s La damoiselle élue—influenced by the life and work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.