Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (dăn´tē gā´brēəl rōsĕt´ē), 1828–82, English poet and painter; son of Gabriele Rossetti and brother of Christina Rossetti. He attended the Royal Academy and studied painting briefly with Ford Madox Brown. In 1848 he became acquainted with W. Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais and with them formed the brotherhood of Pre-Raphaelites. In an effort to spread their ideas the group published in 1850 a short-lived magazine, the Germ, edited by Rossetti's brother William Michael Rossetti (1829–1919). In it was printed "The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel, written when he was 19 and considered by many to be his best poem. In 1851, John Ruskin championed the Pre-Raphaelites, and shortly thereafter made an arrangement with Rossetti to buy all of Rossetti's paintings that pleased him; thus, Rossetti became financially solvent.

In 1860 he married his model and muse, Elizabeth Siddal, a former milliner's assistant whom he had been more or less engaged to for nearly 10 years. Melancholic and tubercular, she took an overdose of laudanum and died in 1862. Rossetti, in a fit of guilt and grief, buried with her a manuscript containing a number of his poems. Some years later he permitted her body to be exhumed and the poems recovered. The first edition of his collected works appeared in 1870. The last years of his life were marked by an increasingly morbid state of mind (he became addicted to alcohol and chloral), and for a time he was considered insane.

Although he began his career as a painter, Rossetti's reputation has long rested mainly upon his poetry. His paintings are deeply colored and sensuous. His earliest oils, such as The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849, Tate Gall.) were of a religious and mystical nature. Typical of his later paintings are idealized portraits of flowing-haired women, e.g., Proserpine (1874, Tate Gall.), and images of Arthurian or medieval romance, e.g., Music (1862, Victoria and Albert Mus.). He also painted watercolors, as deep in color as his oils, with his characteristic range of subject matter. His best artistic efforts are probably his drawings, particularly the pen-and-ink portraits of his mother, sister, wife, and friends.

Almost inseparable in tone and feeling from his paintings, his poetry is noted for its pictorial effects and its atmosphere of luxurious beauty. Although there is always passion in his verse, there is also always thought. He was a master of the sonnet form, and his sonnet sequence "The House of Life" is one of his finest works. His other notable works include the ballad "Sister Helen" and the dramatic monologues "Jenny" and "A Last Confession." His translations from the Italian appeared as Dante and His Circle (1861).

See his poems (ed. by O. Doughty, 1957); catalog raisonné of his paintings and drawings (ed. by V. Surtees, 2 vol., 1972); biographies by O. Doughty (2d ed. 1963), E. Waugh (1928, repr. 1969), and A. Faxon (1989); studies by S. A. Brooke (1908, repr. 1964), G. H. Fleming (1967), R. S. Fraser, ed. (1972), J. Rees (1981), and D. G. Riede (1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Selected full-text books and articles

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Victorian Romantic By Oswald Doughty Yale University Press, 1949
A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American By Louis Untermeyer Simon & Schuster, 1942
Librarian's tip: "Dante Gabriel Rossetti [1828-1882]" begins on p. 932
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Pre-Raphaelite Poets By Lionel Stevenson University of North Carolina Press, 1972
Librarian's tip: Chap. III "Rossetti as Poet"
The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry, and Criticism By J. B. Bullen Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. II "Rossetti, the Sexualized Woman, and the Late 1850s" and Chap. III "Rossetti and Male Desire"
Art Nouveau By Robert Schmutzler Harry N. Abrams, 1962
Librarian's tip: "Dante Gabriel Rossetti and His Circle " begins on p. 62
"He and I": Dante Gabriel. Rossetti's Other Man By Bristow, Joseph Victorian Poetry, Vol. 39, No. 3, Fall 2001
Rossetti's "Jenny": Aestheticizing the Whore By Starzyk, Lawrence J Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 36, No. 3, Summer 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Interrogative Lyric By Fontana, Ernest Philological Quarterly, Vol. 80, No. 3, Summer 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dramatis Person? By Arthur Symons The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1923
Librarian's tip: "The Rossettis" begins on p. 118
A Companion to Victorian Literature By Thomas Marc Parrott; Robert Bernard Martin Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955
Librarian's tip: "Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882" begins on p. 235
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