Writing on the Sand

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1858-1859
Model: Either Ruth Herbert or Elizabeth Siddal may have been the model for the woman
Model: The man's head is supposed to have been taken from (Sir) Richard Holmes, later Librarian at Windsor


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 219.

The Pre–Raphaelites [Tate 1984], 287.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 67 (no. 111).

◦ Treuherz, Prettejohn, Becker, DGR, 166.

Scholarly Commentary


Grieve makes an arresting comment on the picture: “The provocative combination of crinolines, a windy day and sea-bathing was used by contemporary charicaturists in suggestive cartoons. [This picture] is similar to such a cartoon published in 1858 in the scatalogical journal Paul Pry ” ( Grieve, The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 287 ). The fact that DGR painted the picture for Ruth Herbert may be relevant here.

The received title, Writing on the Sand derives from Marillier, whose comment on the picture presents an interesting problem: “It will be noticed that the man is tracing a rough outline of the lady's face in the sand with his stick.” ( Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 219.).

Production History

DGR began work on the picture in 1858, when he borrowed a pair of sketches from George Boyce to help with the background. “The man's figure is said to have been introduced when that of the woman (? Elizabeth Siddal), and the background, were already painted in; his head is supposed to have been taken from (Sir) Richard Holmes, later Librarian at Windsor” (Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné 1. 67).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s111.raw.xml