Dante Gabriel Rossetti Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, christened Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, was born in London, May 12, 1828. His father, Gabriele Rossetti, was an Italian political exile with pretensions as a poet, who had published an eccentric commentary on Dante’s La divina commedia (c. 1320, 3 volumes; The Divine Comedy, 1802) and supported himself teaching his native language. Rossetti’s mother, Frances Polidori, although of Anglo-Italian background, was staunchly English in her severe moral standards and religious beliefs. The opposing views of life represented by his father and mother determined a conflict from which Rossetti was never able to free himself. Like his amiable, self-indulgent father in many ways, he was never able to exorcise the accusing voice of his mother’s puritanism. He led the bohemian life of an artist, but felt guilty for doing so.

In 1845, Rossetti entered the Academy Schools of the Royal Academy of Art. There he associated himself with a group of young artists—notably, John Everett Millais and Holman Hunt—who were dissatisfied with the style and subject matter of Establishment painting, but eager to make names for themselves with the Establishment. Because the effects of light and naturalistic detail they sought were also to be found in late medieval art (prior to the painter Raphael), they called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and began initialing their more daring paintings “P.R.B.” In 1849-1850, the Brotherhood published a journal, The Germ, which included several poems by Rossetti, including “The Blessed Damozel” and the prose piece “Hand and Soul.” Also in 1850, Rossetti publicly exhibited a painting for the first time, Ecce Ancilla Domini! Reviews of the painting—as well as of works exhibited simultaneously by Hunt and Millais—were hostile. Stunned, Rossetti determined never to exhibit his work again (a determination...

(The entire section is 781 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabriel Charles Dante Gabriel Rossetti (roh-ZEHT-ee) was born in London, May 12, 1828, the son of Gabriele Rossetti, a political refugee from Naples, and the brother of Christina Rossetti, the poet, and of William Michael Rossetti, later to be the historian of the Pre-Raphaelites. Rossetti attended King’s College School in London and then various art schools, finally becoming a student of Ford Madox Brown. In 1848 Rossetti and others founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was to be a storm center in English art for many years. In 1850 they began their magazine, The Germ, in which Rossetti published some of his early poems. The paintings of the group were bitterly attacked by Charles Dickens and by the conventional critics; it was only through the influence of John Ruskin, then the aesthetic dictator of art and culture, that the public finally accepted the Pre-Raphaelites and their work. The group’s objective—to paint from nature and thereby overcome artificiality—led to a new style featuring spiritual, meditative qualities as expressed through beautiful women such as Christina Rossetti and other models.

In 1851 Rossetti became engaged to Elizabeth Siddall, whose peculiar beauty had fascinated him and who had become his model, and they were finally married in 1860. She suffered from tuberculosis; their marriage was unhappy because of Rossetti’s increasing indifference and infidelities, and in 1862 she died of an overdose of...

(The entire section is 495 words.)