Happy Birthday Dante Gabriel Rossetti !part one



Today is the birthday of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (b. London 1828- d. 1882). His real name was Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti but he preferred the former adaptation.


Rossetti was the son of an Italian Scholar called Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe and member of an Italian noble family. His mother was Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori, born in London to an Italian exile Gaetanno.  His sister was the poetess Christina Rossetti.



Rossetti attended Kings College School and then went on to study at Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy 1841-1845.  He enrolled in the Royal Academy, left in 1848 and studied under the tutorage of Ford Maddox Brown.

  In 1848, along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, Rossetti  founded the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was a poet, illustrator and painter and later became an inspiration for William Morris and Edward Burns Jones. The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood’s intention was to reform British Art by returning to the formal training techniques and regimes introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Detail, complex compositions in bright colours were to be key elements.  Perhaps their biggest champion was the Art critic John Ruskin:

Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person.[10]

John Ruskin.

The early Pre-Raphaelite paintings show  the realist qualities of the movement, for example, Rossetti’s ‘Girlhood of Mary Virgin’ (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) which portrayed Mary as a young girl.  William Bell Scott saw the Girlhood painting in progress and observed Rossetti’s technique:



He was painting in oils with water-colour brushes, as thinly as in water-colour, on canvas which he had primed with white till the surface was a smooth as cardboard, and every tint remained transparent. I saw at once that he was not an orthodox boy, but acting purely from the aesthetic motive. The mixture of genius and dilettantism of both men shut me up for the moment, and whetted my curiosity.[13]  


Rossetti’s  poetry was inspired by Keats , his art  said to be medieval revivalism in style. He often wrote poetry to accompany his paintings, and also created art that inspired other poets. His sister Christina’s poem Goblin Market published in 1862 (Goblin Market and other poems) was illustrated by her brother and received critical praise.

Goblin Market poem and animation is over on my Bookstains


To be continued

Thanks to:

Images from here

Goblin Market illustration by Rossetti

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin image

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