For “Spring” by Sandro Botticelli (in the Accademia of Florence)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1880
Rhyme: abbaabbacddcee
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Weinberg, “’Looking Backward’ 1997), pages 57-58


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

Scholarly Commentary


This sonnet is the textual focus point for DGR's deep admiration for Botticelli's work. Its visual counterparts are various paintings, especially La Pia de' Tolomei, La Ghirlandata, and especially La Donna Della Finestra. All of these pictures reflect, and reflect upon, the Botticelli picture that DGR bought in 1867 at Christie's for twenty pounds, the Portrait of Smerelda Bandinelli (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). It is now generally ascribed to the school of Botticelli and not to the master himself.

This sonnet references the famous Primavera. As the first and last lines indicate, the poem is DGR's version of the theme so splendidly rendered in Swinburne's “A Vision of Spring in Winter”. Viewing this picture from his wintry present, DGR redoubles the ambiguities in the painting's masque, as the word “here” (line 13) indicates. The central “Lady” (line 10), Venus, epitomizes these ambiguities, as all of DGR's works indicate. The sonnet should be compared with the other late sonnets and their accompanying pictures: Fiammetta, A Sea-Spell, Proserpina and Astarte Syriaca.

Textual History: Composition

The sonnet was written in 1880. The only known manuscript is the undated corrected copy in the Library of Congress.

Printing History

First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets, collected thereafter.


DGR's note to the sonnet: “The same lady, here surrounded by the masque of Spring, is evidently the subject of a portrait by Botticelli formerly in the Portales collection in Paris. The portrait is inscribed ‘Smeralda Bandinelli’.” WMR's note to the poem adds that “My brother bought the portrait in question. He afterwards sold it to Mr. Constantine Ionides, from whom it passed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Leading critics will now have it that the portrait is not the work of Botticelli himself, but of someone for whom they have invented the name ‘Amico di Sandro’”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 9-1880.raw.xml