The Return of Tibullus to Delia

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1853-1855
Date: 1867
Subject: “Tibullus bursts into the room, stepping over the sleeping figure of a slave whom a serving woman is trying to waken. Delia, wearily awaiting his return, holds a lock of hair between her lips; in her left hand she holds a distaff. An elderly woman sits on the floor playing upon two musical instruments” ( Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 24.
Genre: picture notes


◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 24-26 (no. 62).

◦ Wildman, Visions of Love and Life, 130-131.


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.

Scholarly Commentary


The pictorial work comes down to us in several incarnations: a watercolor of circa 1853, accompanied by several studies, including a fine drawing of Elizabeth Siddal as Delia begun in 1851; a watercolor replica of 1867; and another replica of 1868. A number of studies for the first replica survive as well.

DGR's detailed prose ekphrasis on the subject (Works [1911], pages 605-606) qualifies The Return of Tibullus to Delia as a double work.

Textual History: Revision

The date of DGR's prose ekphrasis is uncertain but it must postdate the production of the replica in 1867.

Production History

The first watercolour was begun from some studies that date as early as 1851. Acording the Surtees, “The title of the drawing together with eight lines in Latin from Tibullus (Elegies I, 3, 82-92) are inscribed in ink in Rossetti's hand on the back. Below, in pencil, in Fairfax Murray's writing: ‘From the Schott collection. This drawing has a foundation of truth as is evident from the above [word illegible] in the handwriting of D. G. Rossetti’. This is followed by a further mutilated inscription.”

The 1867 replica was bought by F. W. Craven in February 1867, but it was not completed by DGR until November (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 67. 42, 101, 158 ).


DGR reimagined figure of the seated old woman in his 1857 pastel The Harp Player, where the model is the beautiful Annie Miller.


The 1867 replica has inscribed in its frame both the original passage from Tibullus and DGR's translation. The Tibullus text is Elegies I. 3. 82-92.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 5p-1866.s62.raw.xml