Dante Gabriel Rossetti

1861, 1867

Physical Description

Medium: pen and ink touched with white
Dimensions: 13 x 18 1/2 in.
Signature: monogram
Date on Image: 1861
Note: Monogram and date located at lower right.

Production Description

Production Date: 1861, 1867
Exhibition History: B.F.A.C., 1883 (no.35); New Gallery, 1897 (no.16); R.A., 1973 (no.306); Yale, 1976 (no.43)
Patron: Col. William Gillum
Date Commissioned: 1860-1861
Original Cost: £60
Model: Annie Miller
Note: Annie Miller may have sat for the head of Cassandra.
Repainting: 1867
Significantly reworked at this time.


Current Location: British Museum
Catalog Number: 1910-12-10-4
Purchase Price: bequest
Archival History: Bought from DGR by Colonel William Gillum, who bequeathed it to the British Museum

Scholarly Commentary


DGR described this picture in dynamic terms, with Hector as the pivotal figure shown “rushing down the steps and trying to make himself heard across the noise, as he shouts an order to an officer in charge of the soldiers who are going round the ramparts on their way to battle.” But the composition is dynamic only as a tense configuration of conflicting forms and elements. The tension is epitomized in the visual relation between Cassandra and Hector, which is repeated in Hector's own posture—advancing down the steps but facing back toward Cassandra and the royal family. The picture is a series of replications of similar divergent or conflicted lines of action.

The depiction of the soldiers at the top of the drawing “going round the ramparts on their way to battle” is extremely effective pictorially. They are aligned on a single plane representing the picture's deepest spatial level; they also locate the place to which Hector is rushing. The picture's shallow space, however, as well as the representation of Hector moving toward the picture plane, totalizes the impression one receives of immobilized and pointless action.

Production History

DGR executed the drawing in 1860 and finished it late that year or very early in 1861, when he sent it to William Gillum. In 1867 he reworked and redated it. He told Charles Eliot Norton that he meant to develop the subject into a painting, but he never did (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 60.37, 69.48).

A note in the British Museum's departmental register for prints and drawings reads: “Drawn 1851-1861, retouched 1867. Purchased directly from Rossetti.” This seems to be Gillum's note. This suggestion that the drawing was begun in 1851 seems wrong, though it is difficult to explain.


The figure of Cassandra probably signifies DGR's understanding of the contemporary social position of the artist.


According to George Meredith, it was his poem Cassandra that inspired DGR to do his original drawing in 1861 (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69.48, 176n). But this suggestion is somewhat problematic since Meredith said that “Rossetti is going to illustrate my Cassandra,” whereas DGR had completed the drawing long before the date of this statement (December 1861).

The pair of sonnets written for this drawing underscores the contemporary significance that DGR attached to the myth of Troy. For DGR (as for Tennyson and others of the period) the Matter of Troy involved a broadly applicable story of social doom.


Description: DGR described the picture in the following terms: “The incident is just before Hector's last battle. Cassandra has warned him in vain by her prophecies, and is now throwing herself against a pillar, and rending her clothes in despair, because he will not be detained longer. He is rushing down the steps and trying to make himself heard across the noise, as he shouts an order to an officer in charge of the soldiers who are going round the ramparts on their way to battle. One of his captains is beckoning to him to make haste. Behind him is Andromache with her child, and a nurse who is holding the cradle. Helen is arming Paris in a leisurely way on a sofa; we may presume from her expression that Cassandra has not spared her in her denunciations. Paris is patting her on the back to soothe her, much amused. Priam and Hecuba are behind, the latter stopping her ears in horror. One brother is imploring Cassandra to desist from her fear-inspiring cries. The ramparts are lined with engines for casting stones on the besiegers.” (quoted in Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial , 108-9.).
Subject: Cassandra prophesying the destruction of Troy.
Copyright: © Licensed by the Trustees of the British Museum


  1. image

    Angeli, DGR con 107 illustrazioni , 87.
  2. image

    Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné , vol. 2, plate 196.
  3. image

    Mansell print, Delaware Art Museum, Bancroft Collection.
  4. image

    Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial , 110a recto.     Image: DGR had the drawing photographed and copies distributed in the spring of 1869. (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 69.48).
  5. image

    Wood, Drawings of DGR , plate XXIV.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
File Name: s127.rap.xml