The Death of Breuze Sans Pitié

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1857; 1865 (reworked)


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 80

◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 43-44 (51-52)

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 154-155

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 57.

◦ Yamaguchi, “The Perfect Hero: Cruel Masculinity in D. G. Rossetti's The Death of Breuse sans Pitié (1996)

Scholarly Commentary


One of the most astonishing of DGR's great watercolours of the 1850s, this picture is drawn from Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Book IX, “The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones”. It depicts the perfect knight Sir Dinadan fighting with Sir Breuse to rescue “the wofullest lady in the world”, who came under his power after he had killed the lady's brother.

Production History

First executed in 1857 for William Morris, DGR kept the picture himself and returned to it early in 1864 because of George Rae's interest in DR's Arthurian watercolours. He reworked the picture in February and March, with some difficulty, and sold it to Rae at that point. A comment in his letter to Rae of 28 March is interesting: “Specially glad too that Mrs. Rae likes the ‘Breuse’ which was the one for which you doubted her sympathies. I may say that I agree with you in thinking the ‘Chapel of the Lists’ more successfully finished than the ‘Breuse,’ though I did my best for the latter with much trouble, which is quite sufficient to account for its not hitting the mark at last quite so well as the other, which came right almost before I knew it. The fact is, I ought to have tried to finish the ‘Breuse’ with less work, as the brilliancy of such effects requires the least work possible. Perhaps some day when I see it again, I may see exactly what to do to it again to make it quite right, but my eye was tired when I sent it you, & it would have only endangered it to keep it longer in hand” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 64. 41 ).


The drawing has much in common, technically, with DGR's other Arthurian watercolours, but thematically it stands in an even closer relation to A Fight for a Woman.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s101.raw.xml