Mary in the House of St. John

Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Physical Description

Medium: watercolour
Dimensions: 15 x 12 1/2 in.
Signature: monogram
Date on Image: 1859
Note: Monogram and date in lower left corner.

Production Description

Production Date: 1859
Exhibition History: New Gallery, 1897 (no.145); Tate, 1923 (no.2); Exhibition of Retrospective British Art, Brussels, 1929; Tate, 1984
Patron: Ellen Heaton
Date Commissioned: 1859


Current Location: Tate Gallery
Catalog Number: 5230
Purchase Price: bequest
Archival History: Ellen Heaton; Descended to her nephew Beresford Rimington Heaton; Bequeathed to the Tate Gallery in 1940 by Beresford Rimington Heaton

Scholarly Commentary


The completion of this version of DGR's picture was much delayed. He had the original conception for such a work in 1849, and in 1856 he began a preparatory drawing for this picture, which was to be made for Ellen Heaton at her request. DGR did not complete his picture for her until 1859, however, and in the meantime he had done another on the same subject for Lady Trevelyan (in 1858).

This is generally considered the less successful of the two pictures, although DGR called it “the more forcible” of the two, and Surtees quotes DGR as saying that “an incautious use of Red Lead” was causing deterioration in the picture by 1864 (Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné , vol. 1, 67). The picture is now well articulated—indeed, of the two it alone makes strong use of the gold sparks that fly from the whetstone John is using. These sparks center the pictorial action and give to this version of the watercolour a dynamism that the other lacks. Without those upflying flecks of gold the symbolical machinery tends to seem rather mechanical.


Mary in the House of St. John
Copyright: ©Tate Britain, 2005
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
File Name: s110.r-1.rap.xml