Mrs. William Morris Dante Gabriel Rossetti Red, black, and white chalk on paper Sheet: 35 3/4 x 30 3/4 in. (90.8 x 78.1 cm)
This drawing is a study for the painting Mariana of 1870, now in the Aberdeen City Art Gallery and Museum (no. 21/8). The subject illustrates Act IV, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Mariana sits listening to the words of a song, "Take, O take, those lips away..." The Metropolitan Museum's study differs slightly from the finished painting: there is a vase of flowers in the place of the singing boy, and Mariana holds a sycamore branch instead of the embroidery in the painting.
Rossetti set to work on the oil painting in April when he was staying at Barbara Bodichon's cottage in Robertsbridge. He told Bodichon in a letter of April 14 that he was “now doing [a portrait] of Mrs. Morris which I think about the best portrait I have made of her” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70.101 ). Two chalk drawings of the same subject, one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the other in a private collection, were both executed in 1868.