Rossetti's inspiration for this watercolour was the thirteenth-century French poem of the same name, which is a complex allegory about love and loss. The picture's shallow depth, and its rich decoration, are clearly inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, which Rossetti was viewing in the British Museum and elsewhere. The rapt, embracing couple are typical of Rossetti's work at this time, their union blessed by the sweep of the angel's wing.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Roman de la Rose
34.3 x 34.3 cm
Watercolour on paper
Date of work
Original: Watercolour on paper 34.3 x 34.3 cm
English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti left the RA Schools in 1848 and in the same year founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood along with Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. In 1850 he painted his first subject from the works of Dante, who remained a lifelong inspiration. From 1854 he prospered under the patronage of John Ruskin. After the suicide of his wife and pupil Elizabeth Siddal, he lived in great style, with a menagerie of animals. From 1868 to the mid-1870s he conducted an affair with Jane, the wife of William Morris. She remained his principal muse until his death and he immortalized her in such works as Proserpine."