Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

BORN 12 May 1828, London: 38 Charlotte Street (now: 110 Hallam Street) - DIED 9 Apr 1882, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent
BIRTH NAME Rosetti, Gabriel Charles Dante
CAUSE OF DEATH kidney failure
GRAVE LOCATION Birchington, Kent: All Saints' Churchyard

Son of Gabriele Rossetti and Frances Polidori. He spoke fluently Italian as well as English and was educated at King's College School (1837-1842), F.S. Cary's Academy of Art (1842-1846) and the Royal Academy Antique School. In 1847 he left school to concentrate on art. He sent a fan letter to Ford Madox Brown, whom he admired much. Brown thought Rossetti was being sarcastic and went to the Rossetti family home to give him a sound trashing. There he found to his surprise that Rossetti was absolutely sincere. Brown became Rossetti's mentor and their friendship lasted for life.

When he was only eighteen Rossetti wrote his poem "The Blessed Damozel", which stresses the importance of human love. In 1848 he founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with William Holman Hunt, John Millais, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner, Frederic Stephen and his brother William Rossetti. They published "The Germ", a platform for their poetry and other art. In 1849 he first exhibited an important painting, "The Girlhood of Mary Virgin" (now at the Tate Gallery, London).

In 1850 he met Lizzie Siddal, one of the models for the pre-raphaelite painters. She became his pupil as well as his lover and also an important source of inspiration. In 1851 they became engaged. In 1856 he met Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and Algernon Swinburne to work on wall paintings for the Oxford Debating Union. In Oxford he met Jane Burdon. He fell in love with her, introduced her to William Morris and Morris married her in 1859.

In spite of affairs with other women, he eventually married Lizzie Siddal in 1860. When she died in 1862 he buried his collected poetry with her. He painted "Beate Beatrice" in tribute to Lizzie and in later years he tried to contact her in seances. In 1869 he wanted his poetry back and in his absence Lizzie's coffin was opened. The volume was returned to him and with it reports of the state of her body. He was attacked from many sides because of this action, but he wrote to Swinburne that Lizzie would certainly have approved. When his poems were published he soon established a reputation as a poet.

In 1871 his work was criticized severely by Robert Buchanan in "The Fleshy School of Poetry: Mr. D.G. Rossetti". Rossetti responded, but in 1872 he broke down mentally as well as physically. He suffered from hallucinations and inner voices and was taken to Scotland where he tried to commit suicide. Rossetti never fully recovered, but soon he was able to paint again. For many years he took huge doses of whisky and laudanum to cure insomnia. This worsened of depressions and his health detoriated further. Later in life he was interested in spiritualism and he attended seances. But as early as 1855 he had written in a letter that he didn't believe in it and he probably remained a sceptic.

In his last years Rossetti was obsessed with "Janey" Morris, whose face appears in many of his paintings. In 1871 William Morris went to Iceland and left Rossetti with Jane at Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. Jane claimed in later years that nothing really happened between them, but this seems hard to believe. Beyond dispute is that her daughters Jenny and May were both very fond of Rossetti. After posing for "Astarte Syriaca" Jane broke off her liaison with Rossetti whose mental stability was detoriating rapidly.

By 1882 he suffered from Bright's disease and was nursed by Christina and William Michael in Birchington. His request to see Janey a last time was ignored by her and he died on April 9th in Birchington. He was in deep financial debt at the time pof his death and his brother had a hard time to keep the creditors and his model Fanny Cornforth away from the funeral arrangements. He had stated that he didn't want to be buried at Highgate Cemetery (where Lizzie Siddal was buried) and he was laid to rest in Burchington Churchyard, Kent. Burne-Jones couldn't face the funeral and said he was too ill. Janey and William Morris didn't come either. His old friend Ford Madox Brown was in Manchester but he designed the cross on Rossetti's grave and his daughter Lucy was at the funeral.

Other models who had posed to Rossetti were Ruth Herbert, Annie Miller, Alexa Wilding and Marie Spartali, a talented painter herself.

• Mother: Polidori, Frances Mary Lavinia
• Father: Rossetti, Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe
• Wife: Siddal, Elizabeth (1860-1862, Hastings: St. Clements Church)
• Sister: Rossetti, Christina Georgina
• Brother: Rossetti, William Michael

Related persons
• was a friend of Allingham, William
• was a friend of Alma-Tadema, Laura Theresa
• was admired by Boyce, George Price
• influenced Burne-Jones, Edward
• was a friend of Cornforth, Fanny
• used as a model Cornforth, Fanny
• was a friend of Deverell, Walter Howell
• was criticized by Eastlake, Elizabeth
• has a connection with Hughes, Arthur
• was a friend of Hunt, William Holman
• has a connection with Lowry, Lawrence Stephen
• was a friend of Madox Brown, Ford
• had a relationship with Miller, Annie
• painted Morris, Jane
• had a relationship with Morris, Jane
• has a connection with Prinsep, Valentine
• used as a model Siddal, Elizabeth
• knew Smetham, James
• was teacher to Spartali Stillman, Marie
• used as a model Spartali Stillman, Marie
• cooperated with Spencer-Stanhope, John Roddam
• was a friend of Whistler, James MacNeill
• influenced Wilde, Oscar
• painted Zambaco, Maria

2/5/1861Lizzie Siddal gives birth to a stillborn daughter. She had married Gabriel Dante Rossetti in 1860 and had been suffering from bad health for a long time. She used a lot of laudanum and brandy to fight her depressions. There the death child didn't come as a surprise but it was still a blow for the parents. Physically Lizzie recovered quickly, but her depressions stayed with her. [Siddal, Elizabeth]
10/2/1862Lizzie Siddal takes a deathly dose of laudanum. She, her husband Gabriel Dante Rosseti and Algernon Swinburne had dined at the Sabloniere Hotel on Leicester Square. After the dinner Rossetti went to Working Men's Institute where he was a teacher and Lizzie went home. When he returned home at 11 pm she was unconscious and the empty laudanum bottle was at the side of her bed. There was a note on her nightgown. Her stomach was pumped but it was too late and she died early in the morning. The note was destroyed by Ford Madox Brown and its contents were never known. [Madox Brown, Ford][Siddal, Elizabeth]
0/6/1872Rossetti misinterprets Browning's "Finfine at the Fair". He had a nervous breakdown on 2 Jun 1872, hallucinated and saw conspirations against himself everywhere. When Robert Browning innocently sent him his new poem "Finfine at the Fair" a few days later, Rossetti read it as an attack on himself. It upset him so much that he had to be taken to the house of Dr. Hake for rest. He had taken a bottle of laudanum with him that he drank entirely that night. Only because of his weight and because he was used to it he survived and escaped the fate of his wife Lizzie Siddal who had died from an overdose of laudanum in 1862. [Siddal, Elizabeth]
1/5/1877Opening of Grosvenor Gallery, London. It was located at 135-137 New Bond Street and it was founded by Sir Coutts Lindsay, who wanted to exhibit paintings that weren't fit for the nearby located Royal Academy. Burne-Jones, Whistler, Watts, Legros, Moore, Hubert von Herkomer, James Tissot, Millais and Holman Hunt were among those who exhibited. Rossetti refused to cooperate because work by members of the Royal Academy was exhibited as well. [Burne-Jones, Edward][Hunt, William Holman][Millais, John][Whistler, James MacNeill]


The grave of Dante Gabriel Rossetti at All Saints' Churchyard, Birchington.
Picture by Androom (23 May 2014)


The grave of Dante Gabriel Rossetti at All Saints' Churchyard, Birchington.
Picture by Androom (23 May 2014)


The house where Gabriel Dante Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne lived at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea London.
Picture by Androom (26 May 2014)


'Portrait of Elizabeth Siddal'.
   (06 Feb 1855, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University)

"Portrait of Louisa Ruth Herbert".
   (1858-1859, Bristol: Bristol Museums and Art Gallery)

"Fair Rosamund".
   (1861, Cardiff: National Museum of Wales)

"The Blue Bower".
   (1865, Birmingham: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts)

"Sibylla Palmifera".
   (1865-1870, Port Sunlight: Lady Lever Art Gallery)

"The Bower Meadow".
   (1871-1872, Manchester: Manchester Art Gallery)

"Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice".
   (1871-1881, Liverpool: Walker Art Gallery)

"La Ghirlandata".
   (1873, London: Guildhall Art Gallery)

"Astarte Syriaca".
   (1877, Manchester: Manchester Art Gallery)

"Beate Beatrice" (detail).
   (1877, Birmingham: City Museum and Art Gallery)

"Pandora" (study).
   (1878, Port Sunlight: Lady Lever Art Gallery)

"Proserpine" (detail).
   (1881-1882, Birmingham: City Museum and Art Gallery)

"Beate Beatrice".
   (c1864-1870, London: The Tate Gallery)

• Jones, Kathleen, Learning not to be first, the Life of Christina Rossetti, The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire, 1991
• Wildman, Stephen, John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones 1833-1898, Un maître anglais de l'imaginaire, Réunion des Musées Nationeaux, Paris, 1999

Rossetti, Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 30 Jun 2022