Faust: Mephistopheles Outside Gretchen's Cell

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1846 April


◦ WMR, Family Letters, vol. 1, 98

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 4 (no. 17).

Scholarly Commentary


The Faust story never lost its hold on DGR, and this drawing may be the earliest showing his interest in the legend, and especially in Goethe's monumental treatment. The diabolical element was most important, and it can be traced through all his works, both written and pictorial, to the end of his life. Equally important for DGR was the figure of Gretchen, whose psychic trials fascinated DGR.

Besides this drawing, the six other works that were specifically inspired by Goethe's work include a pencil drawing done around 1846; Faust: Gretchen and Mephistopheles in Church, Faust: Margaret in the Church, and Faust (Part I last scene) (all three dating from 1848); the 1856 drawing Faust: Faust and Margaret in Prison; and finally, the late oil Risen at Dawn, which DGR worked at between 1878-1880.


DGR's pictorial treatments all focus on three of the scenes in Part I of Goethe's drama: lines 2783-2804, Gretchen opening the jewel case, which is the subject for his late unfinished oil; lines 3777-3844 (the scene of “Gretchen in Church”; and finally two drawings depicting different parts of the final dungeon scene, one recollecting the scene in a general way, the other apparently an effort to render Gretchen's hallucinations at the very end (lines 4565-4610).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s17.raw.xml