The poet, painter, and designer
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, b. Gabriel Charles
Dante Rossetti, May 12, 1828, d. Apr. 9, 1882, was a cofounder of the
PRE-RAPHAELITES, a group of English painters and poets who hoped to bring to
their art the richness and purity of the medieval period.
The son of the exiled Italian patriot and scholar Gabriele Rossetti and a
brother of the poet Christina Rossetti, Dante showed literary talent early,
winning acclaim for his poem
The Blessed Damozel (1847) before he was 20
years old. As a student at the Royal Academy Antique School (1845-47), he
met William Holman Hunt and John Millais, with whom he launched the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.
Rossetti's first Pre-Raphaelite paintings in oils, based on religious
themes and with elements of mystical symbolism, were
The Girlhood of Mary Virgin
Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850), both in the Tate Gallery,
London. Although he won support from John Ruskin, criticism of his paintings
caused him to withdraw from public exhibitions and turn to watercolors, which
could be sold privately. Subjects taken from Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova
(which Rossetti had translated into English) and Sir Thomas Malory's Morte
Darthur inspired his art in the 1850s. His visions of Arthurian romance and
medieval design also inspired his new friends of this time, William Morris
love was Rossetti's main theme in both poetry and painting.
Elizabeth Siddal, whom he married in 1860, was the subject of many fine
drawings, and his memory of her after she died (1862) is implicit in the
(1863; Tate Gallery, London). Toward the end of his life,
Rossetti sank into a morbid state, possibly induced by his disinterment
(1869) of the manuscript poems he had buried with his wife and by savage
critical attacks on his poetry. He spent his last years as an invalid
The image accompanying this article is a Self-portrat of Rossetti, painted
in 1847. It is hanging at the National Portrait Gallery in London.