Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882)
The woman in this painting embodies the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty with her pale face, full lips, and thick, wavy, chestnut hair. Painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of 19th-century British artists and writers (William Holman Hunt, also in this gallery, was another founding member). They admired early Italian Renaissance art (pre-Raphael) and advocated the direct observation of nature, in contrast to what they saw as the insincere and overly polished British academic style.
In 1861 Rossetti published a translation of the Vita Nuova (New Life) by his namesake Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), a series of autobiographical sonnets detailing Dante’s unrequited love for Florentine gentlewoman Beatrice Portinari. The Salutation of Beatrice illustrates lines from the second sonnet in Vita Nuova. You can read the poem—both in the original Italian and in Rossetti’s English translation—on the gilded frame, which Rossetti designed specifically for this painting. Beatrice dominates the composition, but Dante can be seen in the background, comforted by the winged personification of Love. (TMA)