Friday, December 28, 2012



The young King of a country is hunting on a day with a young Knight, his friend; when, feeling thirsty, he stops at a Forester's cottage, and the Forester's daughter brings him a cup of water to drink. Both of them are equally enamoured at once of her unequalled beauty. The King, however, has been affianced from boyhood to a Princess, worthy of all love, and whom he has always believed he loved until
undeceived by his new absorbing passion; but the Knight, resolved to sacrifice all other considerations to his love, goes again to the Forester's cottage and asks his daughter's hand. He finds that the girl has fixed her thoughts on the King, whose rank she does not know. On hearing it she tells her suitor humbly that she must die if such be her fate, but cannot love another. The Knight goes to the King to tell him all and beg his help; and the two friends then come to an explanation. Ultimately the King goes to the girl and pleads his friend's cause, not disguising his own passion, but saying that as he sacrifices himself to honour, so should she, at his prayer, accept a noble man whom he loves better than all men and whom she will love too. This she does at last; and the King makes his friend an Earl and gives him a grant of the forest and surrounding country as a marriage gift, with the annexed condition, that the Earl's
wife shall bring the King a cup of water at the same spot on every anniversary of their first meeting when he rides a-hunting with her husband. At no other time will he see her, loving her too much. He weds the Princess, and thus two years pass, the condition being always fulfilled. But before the third anniversary the lady dies in childbirth, leaving a daughter. The King's life wears on, and still he and his friend pursue their practice of hunting on that day, for sixteen years. When the anniversary comes round for the sixteenth time since the lady's death, the Earl tells his daughter, who has grown to her mother's perfect likeness (but whom the King has never
seen), to meet them on the old spot with the cup of water, as her mother first did when of the same age. The King, on seeing her, is deeply moved; but on her being presented to him by the Earl, he is about to take the cup from her hand, when he is aware of a second figure in her exact likeness, but dressed in peasant's clothes, who steps to her side as he bends from his horse to take the cup, looks in his face with solemn words of love and welcome, and kisses him on the mouth. He falls forward on his horse's neck, and is lifted up dead.

Short story by Rossetti

According to]. W. Mackail, Life of William Morris) OUP ed. 1950, i, 140, it was Rossctti and Edward Burne-Jones who first met Jane Burden. Lady Burne-Jones, in her Memorials of Edward Burne-fones, 1904. i, 168, states that Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Arthur Hughes and William Morris were all at the theatre together when the meeting took place.

Like the story did Rossetti encourage Jane to marry William, as he felt he couldn't abandon Lizzie ?

Rossetti in Loves

Henry Hall Caine, who, as a young man, was the close companion of Rossetti in his
last months, disclosed in 1928 that Rosserti, in an extremity of depression during the long night journey on their return from Cumberland, had revealed himself as a 'man who, after engaging himself to one woman in all honour and good faith, had fallen
in love with another, and then gone on to marry the first out of a mistaken sense of loyalty and a fear of giving pain' - with disastrous consequences.'

Recollections of Rorsetti, 1928, pp. 141 and 200. Caine also quotes, p. 220, Rossetti's comment on somewhat different circumstances: 'To marry one woman and then find out when it is too late, that you love another is the deepest tragedy that can enter into a man's life.' Caine's Recollections of Dante Rossetti, 1882 published four months after Rossetti's death, was silent on these matters.

Barnaby Rudge

image from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, illustrated either by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) or George Cattermole.

(Wordsworth Classics edition)

William Morris read the book to Jane whilst he was courting her in Oxford

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rossetti on William

'The Bard and Petty Tradesman', from an album of 60 caricature drawings; illustrated letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Jane Morris, showing the two sides of William Morris back-to-back, at left playing a harp and at right behind a desk. 1868
Pen and brown ink

Rossetti on Jane

‘You are the noblest and dearest thing the world has had to show me; and no lesser loss than the loss of you could have brought me so much bitterness, I would still have had this to endure than have missed the fullness of wonder and wondership which nothing else could have made known to me’.

Bryson, John, ed., Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris: Their Correspondence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), p. 34.

[Study of Jane Morris for the Virgin in 'The Seed of David']

Monday, December 3, 2012

Proserpine close up

Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
Unto this wall, - one instant and no more
Admitted at my distant palace-door
Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.
Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
That chills me: and afar how far away,
The nights that shall become the days that were.
Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
Strange ways in thought, and listenfor a sign:
And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
O, Whose sounds mine inner sense in fain to bring,
Continually together murmuring) —
'Woe me for thee, unhappy Proserpine'.
— D. G. Rossetti

In a letter to Henry T. Dunn, the artist's studio assistant) dated 17 February, 1880, Rossetti wrote:
I have had already to sacrifice to him [William Graham] (and it came very conveniently) the Proserpine you commenced and I carried on, to meet a debt which he proved (to my surprise) off] 00 to be met by chalk work, and which had got quite overlooked for years. This Proserpine I must finish, and would finish at some time the replica I now propose for him, if I know when you could set about the commencement [Letters IV, 1713]
Dante Gabriel Rossetti became, of his generation, one of the finest exponents in the medium of coloured chalks. From his 'Medieval' watercolours of the 1850s to his symbolic female figure subjects in oil, his technical prowess reached its apex toward the end of his life in his series of highly finished pastel drawings, He had started to make images in chalk in the mid 1860s under the guidance of Frederick Sandys.39 Three versions of Proserpine exist in oil: the primary version dated 1877 (Paul Getty Jnr),40 the second dated 1874 (Tate Gallery) and the final version of 1882 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery). The present work is the only recorded full-scale version of Rossetti's Proserpine composition in chalks made by the artist himself.
Of all Rossetti's depictions of Jane Morris, Proserpine perhaps most strongly conveys Rossetti's infatuation with her archetypal 'Pre-Raphaelite' looks; rich, raven hair and long, elegant neck, and his ideals of spiritual love, nurtured by his constant reading of Dante. Unable to decide as a young man whether to concentrate on painting or poetry, his work is infused with his poetic imagination and an individual interpretation of literary sources. His accompanying sonnet to this work is a poem of longing: "And still some heart unto some soul doth pine," carrying an inescapable allusion to his yearning to seduce Jane from her unhappy marriage with William Morris. Proserpine had been imprisoned in Pluto's underground realm for tasting the forbidden pomegranate. Jane, trapped by convention, was tasting another variety of illicit fruit.
On Prosepine, Rossetti wrote:
She is represented in a gloomy corridor of her palace, with the fatal ftuit in her hand. As she passes, a gleam strikes on the wall behind her from some inlet suddenly opened, and admitting for a moment the sight of the upper world; and she glances furtively towards it, immersed in thought. The incense-burner stands beside her as the attribute of a goddess. The ivy branch in the background may be taken as a symbol of clinging memory.
The working methods of both Rossetti's and Burne-Jones's studios, as of those of the old masters, were such that it was common practice that the studio assistants were employed to block in the under-drawing for finished works. The Master then drew or painted the finished work over the studio assistant's cartoon. The following of this practise in relationship to the present work is borne out both by the letter quoted above (Doughty and Wahl, 1967) and the evidence of a condition report provided by June Wallis, where it is stated that the drawing in pastel was executed over a graphite under-drawing. The report goes on to state the fact that both the primary support and the surface of the work are in very good condition, with evidence of only minor restoration in the upper parts of the work and around the edges. This, for the most part, relates to the area where the original sheets of paper were joined together, which was Rossetti's normal practice.
The replica (wholly by Rossetti's studio assistant, Henry Treffrey Dunn) referred to in Rossetti's letter to H. T. Dunn of 17 February, 1880 is now in a private collection in Scotland.

Related Materials

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Tragedy of Jenny Morris

My article on Jenny

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jane handwriting

Rossetti sketch

A Rosetti sketch from an album that belonged to Jane, that to my mind rather resembles her despite supposing to be a classical statue. On the sketch DGR has written :

PS. It also strikes me as possible that/Ned may have heard from you I wanted it/and [suit?] it" and dated in another hand: "20.9.78"

Philip Burne Jones

This is from an album owned by Jane (that went to May and was left to the British Museum) of early sketches by Philip Burne-Jones who was good friends with May and Jenny. Was this done for them ?

Children bowing before a dressed up pig, illustration to a rhyme, from an album of 60 caricature drawings

Inscription Content: Signed with initials and inscribed with rhyme: "If a pig wore a wig/What could we say ..."

May's name

May was born at the Red House on the 25th March 1862, the feast of the Annunciation. Neither of her parents, Jane and William Morris were religious but she was given the name Mary quickly abbreviated to May, possibly because Mary was the generic name given to house maids.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New

The Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New

'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." William Morris 'The Beauty of Life' 1880

Woodcut of the Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New, 1895-1900. Kelmscott House was William Morris's London house

The house of William Morris in Hammersmith

The house of William Morris in Hammersmith (engraving), Railton, Herbert (1857-1910) / Private Collection - The Bridgeman Art Library

Jane at the piano

According to the Jan Marsh video on May, this is actually Jane sitting at the piano. At some point she taught herself (or had lessons) but was considered accomplished.

May by Ned

Janey Morris in her own words

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

topaz brooch

This topaz brooch originally belonged to Jane Morris. This may have been given to her by Rossetti, who liked a bit of bling on his women.

made about 1820-30

'Arcadia' wallpaper

Specimen of 'Arcadia' wallpaper, a pattern of intertwined flowers and foliage, cream and brown; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price. 
Part of 'Volume 2', a pattern book containing 27 Morris & Co. patterns from 1862-81

We think of Morris' lovely wallpapers but here a couple designed by May for Morris & Co. She was so talented like her Father.

'Horn Poppy' wallpaper

Specimen of 'Horn Poppy' wallpaper, a design of poppy flowers and foliage; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price. 
Part of a pattern book.

designer May Morris 


Friday, October 19, 2012

La Pia 1868 - 81

A subject from Dante's Purgatorio. Begun in 1868 with Jane as the melancholic model. It wasn't finished until 1881, a year before his death. The symbols in the foreground represent her piety and include her husbands love letters from a happier time. Dante found her in purgatory because she literally pined away after her husband imprissioned her in a castle. The pile of pennants on the left seem to represent the absent cruel husband. Is Rossetti also hinting at Jane imprisioned by her marriage to William ? La Pia fingers the luxurious ring given to her husband, as Jane married for money rather than love.

The grey landscape with its flock of crows reflects in a symbolist way her suffering, but Rossetti also asked Charles Fairfax Murray to make sketches of the drear Maremma swamps (where the castle had said to be located - sw Tuscany) to introduce a note of realism to the picture. The ivy is taken from photographs by another friend Frederic Shields.

The picture was bought by Frederick Richards Leyland for a massive 800gns who hung it in his house alongside Lady Lilith and Veronica Veronese.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Collected Letters of Jane Morris - my Amazon review

Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris and the muse of Rossetti still exercises a fascination that never seems to fade. Starting as the daughter of a lowly groom in Oxford her story is so fascinating that new books retelling are produced every few years. Jan Marsh has written her definitive biography and with Frank Sharp discovered 500 letters most of which have not been published before.

In good time to coincide with the Tate exhibition (which features a number of Rossetti's paintings of her) the letters reveal a much more complex character than has often been portrayed. She helped her husband, loved and worried about her children (particularly the epileptic Jenny) and had strong views that help bring her alive as more than Rossetti's vision of her or the limp invalid who married just for the money. The extensive notes reflect new research on her and those around her and the colour plates have been well chosen.

Its hard to see how this book could be superseded and combined with Fiona MacCarthy's biographies of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones throws new light on these leading lights of the pre raphaelites and their environment.