La Pia. Dante

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1868-1880
Rhyme: abababa
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: translation
Model: Mrs. Jane Morris


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Ilustrated Memorial, 202-203

◦ Paden, “La Pia de Tolomei by Dante Gabriel Rossetti”, Register of the Museum of Art [U. of Kansas], 2.1 November 1958, 3-48

◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 77

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 262-264

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1, 118-120.

Scholarly Commentary


Based on the story of the Lady of Siena as told in Dante's Purgatorio (V. 130-136), the painting bears within itself an oblique allusion to the relations between Jane Morris, her husband William, and their close friend DGR. Jane sat for this portrait of La Pia, who was imprisoned and murdered by her husband in 1295 in a castle in Maremma. DGR's passion for Mrs. Morris was at a peak of intensity in 1868.

Textual History: Composition

In 1866 or 1867 DGR made a draft of his translation of the verse from Dante. This copy and a fair copy made at about the same time are in the Duke University Library's Notebook I. Later, in 1880, he fair copied that translation and added to it a prose ekphrasis of the picture, which he completed at that time. The verse was eventually printed on the frame of the picture. DGR sent another copy of the translation, along with the original Italian and some notes, in his letter to F. G. Stephens of 2 February 1881.

Production History

Work on the picture began with studies made for the painting in early 1868. What appears the earliest includes DGR's translation of the relevant passage from Dante. A slightly later sketch carries DGR's prose notes for the picture's details. Mrs. Morris sat for DGR between March and July,1868, by which point the picture was fairly well-advanced. Two drawings that reflect this state of the work survive, the red and white chalk drawing in the Fitzwilliam Museum (1868), and the drawing in colored chalks (1870) located now in the Humanities Research Center at Texas. Abandoned in 1870, the work was resumed in 1880, and DGR announced to his mother late in December that it was finished (see Fredeman, Correspondence, (23 December 1880) 80. 56 ). He must have begun working on it again in the summer (see his letter to Watts of 11 July 1880: Fredeman, Correspondence, (23 December 1880) 80. 239.1 .

Electronic Archive Edition: 1