My Lady Greensleeves

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1859


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 101-102.

Notes and Queries, 4th Series (29 July 1871) 99.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 68 (no. 113).

Scholarly Commentary

Production History

The drawing was completed and bought by George Rae in 1859. According to Marillier, “Rossetti was much annoyed at some criticisms passed upon the drawing by one of the reviews, and that he set to and daubed the background all over, spoiling some very fine work”. Surtees quotes DGR as saying that “I gave it a good daubing all over”. Marillier reproduces a priliminary pencil sketch for the picture that was in the possession of Fairfax Murray; also surviving is a pencil and watercolour study.

On the reverse of the watercolour is a pencil sketch of a female head turned to the right (9 x 6 1/2 in.).

DGR returned to the subject in 1863 to make a later different composition that is closer to the pencil and watercolour study.


The upper right corner of the pictures has a few bars of music and inscribes two lines from the refrain of the traditional ballad of “Lady Greensleeves”: “Greensleeves is my Heart of Gold,/ And who but my Lady Greensleeves?” A Notes and Queries correspondent (29 July 1871) annotates the picture's literary source in an interesting way: “The Lady Greensleeves of the ballad. . .is one of the ‘light o' love’ order. To wear green sleeves, to have a grass-green gown, or to wear roses on the shoes, were equally held in disrepute in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The ballad. . .is an appeal of a cast-off lover” to the lady (page 99). The melancholy look of the lady, in this context, is peculiarly suggestive.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
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