Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mnemosyne, 1881 Lamp of Memory

Mnemosyne, 1881 
Lamp of Memory
Alternately titled: Ricordanza
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Oil on canvas
49 3/4 x 24 1/2 inches

DGR began this picture sometime early in 1876 as a kind of reprise on his Astarte Syriaca : as he told his mother in a letter of 29 April, “I have twice commenced the Venus Astarte subject. The second commencement is I believe quite a success for me—my best; and the heads are now all fully secured. I have lately been working up as a separate picture the principal head of the first commencement, which, though I was bent on doing it still better for the picture, is by no means a failure. I am making it into another design of head and hands only, to be called Memory, or La Ricordanza which word I suppose (though it might be rather obsolete) is as admissible Italian as ‘Rimembranza’” (Fredeman, Correspondence, 76. 78). By the end of May he was nearing completion and about to order a frame for the painting: as he told Watts-Dunton on 21 May, “I suppose I shall certainly get the frame for La Ricordanza before the end of the coming week. The picture is looking much finer now than when you left, as the moment had just then arrived for thoroughly harmonizing and bringing it together.” (Fredeman, Correspondence, 76. 85, 93). The prospective buyer for the picture was Clarence Fry, but in the end he declined.

Delaware Art Museum
originally to Frederick R. Leyland

Thou fill'st from the winged chalice of the soul
Thy lamp, O Memory, fire-winged to its goal.
Note: Inscribed on the picture's frame

Pencil sketch:

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