For Ruggiero and Angelica by Ingres

Alternately titled: Sonnets for Pictures 5. Angelica rescued from the Sea-monster, by Ingres; in the Luxembourg

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849 October
Rhyme: abbaaccadefedf
Meter: iambic
Genre: sonnet
The work consists of two sonnets, both with the same metrical scheme.
Sources of the Work:
Artist: Jean-August Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
Location: The painting is now in the Louvre, but it was housed in the Musee de Luxembourg until 1878.


◦ Gregory, The Life and Works of DGR II. 109-110

◦ Stein, Ritual of Interpretation., 137-140


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.

Scholarly Commentary


Of this pair of sonnets DGR wrote to his brother (15 September 1869) that they “are merely picturesque, and . . . stupid people are sure to like [them] better than better things” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 156 ). His judgment is shrewd, as one realizes immediately when the sonnets are compared to the pair he wrote for his own painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. In the latter case, a clearly articulated set of ideas governs the deployment of the pictorial details, whereas here the treatment is indeed, as DGR says, more “picturesque”.

Nevertheless, the sonnets—and in particular the first of the two—exemplify very well DGR's peculiar gift for turning various types of words (especially nouns, verbs, adjectives) into a “picturesque” state: so that different syntactic forms acquire the qualities of other forms. Terms like “harsh” and “shrewd” here operate with a certain nominal force, as does the verb “ramps”; and of course the noun “salt” is forced to operate in adjectival form. The startling words “geomaunt and teraphim” epitomize the sophistication of the treatment: these are nouns, but their substantive elements are so recondite that they become, as has often been noted, atmospheric and adjectival in their primary syntactic function.

The second sonnet is not a verbal rendering of the pictorial details but a report on the emotional and psychic content of the scene (a) as it is experienced by Angelica, and (b) as Angelica's experience is sympathetically recreated by the poet. That act of recreation is as much an interpretation of the Ingres painting as it is an imagining of Angelica's state of mind and feelings at the climactic moment of the action. That the scene represents a threat of rape scarcely needs to be said: DGR's gothic details in the octave are meant to stand as an objective correlative for the psychic catastrophe being undergone (by Angelica, but through her by the viewer/reader as well). Indeed, the textual injunctions in the octave appear to signal an observer's attitude to the painting. Seen in this way, the sestet then becomes a reflection on the aesthetic repose that (in DGR's argument of images here) one ought to realize as a function of even the most thrilling and energetic work of art. Seen in another (sexual) way, it represents a kind of post-coital lassitude; and it hardly needs mentioning that the poem is setting in the reader's way a series of disturbing and even outrageous complications.

The phallic action of the scene scarcely needs comment. However, one wants to see very clearly that a certain equation is being drawn in DGR's re-presentation between Ruggiero and the orc.

Textual History: Composition

DGR sent a manuscript copy of the sonnets in a letter to his brother on 18 October 1849, where they are headed with the title “Last Visit to the Luxembourg. Roger Rescuing Angelica; by Ingres” (see Fredeman, Correspondence 49. 19 ).

Textual History: Revision

DGR revised the MS text of the sonnets when he came to publish them in the Germ in 1850. But the revisions were not extensive, and when he again moved them through the print process that eventuated in their publication in the 1870 Poems, the texts remained very close to the Germ texts. Nonetheless there are differences and these are reflected in the manuscript copy made by WMR many years later. This is an important document because it preserves a set of revisions that represent DGR's later changes to the work. The autograph manuscript from which these revisions derive was certainly available to WMR when he was editing his brother's work for his first (1886) collected edition, because that text gives the revised version of the sonnet, not the 1850.


Patmore read the sonnets in November 1849, after DGR had returned from his trip to Europe with Hunt, and “was much struck with the character they possess of being descriptive of a painting” (see Fredeman, The P.R.B. Journal 23 ).


Behind both picture and sonnets stands the iconography of the damsel in distress, so affecting to Victorian sensibilities. DGR's poems rather shockingly emphasize the physical and sexual character of such an image constellation, and the complex relations that bond the figures in such a scene together.

Printing History

First published in the Germ no. 4 (30 April 1850), as the last two of the six Sonnets for Pictures printed there. DGR reprinted them in the Penkill Proofs, where the text is virtually the same as the text published in the 1870 Poems, the culmination of the proof process begun with the Penkill Proofs. DGR was hesitant about including this pair of sonnets in the volume but eventually decided in their favor.


There are several versions of this subject by Ingres and each is significantly different. DGR's sonnets, as his title indicates, reflect upon the painting then in the museum of the Luxembourg palace (but moved to the Louvre in 1878). On 4 October 1849 DGR wrote to his brother about Ingres and his work. He praised “a ceiling by Ingres [in the Louvre] which contains some exceedingly good things. This fellow is quite unaccountable. One picture of his in the Luxembourg is unsurpassed for exquisite perfection by anything I have ever seen, and he has others for which I would not give two sous” (see Fredeman, Correspondence 49. 17 ).


Like the original painting, DGR's sonnets derive from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso Canto X. The second sonnet, in fact, as Baum notes, draws more from Ariosto than it does from Ingres. “In Ariosto, however, the orc is not killed, but is subdued by the enchanted shield until the damsel can be rescued” (Baum, Poems, Ballads and Sonnets 166n).

The second sonnet also recalls Poe's manner of constructing a scene of exquisite textual/psychic intensity, in both poetic and prose works.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 39-1849.raw.xml