Fazio's Mistress

Alternately titled: Aurelia

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1863; 1873
Model: Fanny Cornforth
Repainting: 1873
DGR did some glazing work and perhaps some retouching of the lips.


◦ Fredeman, Correspondence, 63.95, 63.100, 73.352.

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 131.

◦ McGann, The Game that Must be Lost, 18-21, 128-131.

◦ Sharp, DGR: A Record and a Study, 152, 186-187.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 92-93 (no. 164).

The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Watts, Tate 1997, 98-100.

Scholarly Commentary


The picture initially formed part of a double work with Fazio degli Uberti's Canzone (“Io miro i crespi e gli biondi capegli”) translated by DGR and included in his Early Italian Poets collection. But this conception changed in 1869, when he said that the painting ought to be renamed Aurelia.

For a much more detailed commentary on the picture and all its relationships see the documents and glosses for the finished oil, as well as the commentary for DGR's translation of Uberti's poem.

Production History

The finished oil was commisioned by William Backmore sometime in early or mid-1863, was on DGR's easel in October, and was completed and sent to Blackmore on 16 November (see letters to Ellen Heaton, 25 October 1863, and to William Blackmore, 16 November, Fredeman, Correspondence, 63.95 and 63.100 ). DGR pointed out to Blackmore that the picture's frame was specially designed by DGR. The picture, which passed to George Rae, was repainted for Rae in 1873, at which point the original frame was altered and the text from the canzone of Fazio degli Alberti removed (see letter to Rae, 3 December 1873, Fredeman, Correspondence, 73.352 ). Comments vary on the extent of the repainting; in any case, DGR did not, as he sometimes did with pictures involving Fanny Cornforth, repaint the face.

DGR made a watercolour in 1864 for John Bibby which depicts the same subject, the woman facing to the right instead of the left. The original design for the picture, which DGR sent to Blackmore with the painting, has not appeared.


This painting should not be confused with the 1860 watercolour he made for George Boyce titled Bonifazio's Mistress, which has nothing to do with Fazio degli Uberti or his famous canzone.


When DGR suggested the title Aurelia for the picture he was drawing a relation with Gérard de Nerval's 1855 novella of the same title. Nerval's story is distinctly Rossettian—full of dreams and doubles—and is itself a conscious replication of Dante's Vita Nuova. Thus, whether associated with Uberti or Nerval, the picture is very close to a double work, properly so called.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s164.raw.xml