Morning Music

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1864
Subject: “A young woman is having her hair combed out by an attendant. A youth stands behind her, singing and playing on a cithern” (Surtees 97)


The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 298-299.

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 135-136.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 97 (no. 170).

Scholarly Commentary


DGR's pictures that focus on music and musical subjects are, like his portraits of women, imbedded in a set of antithetical possibilities. In a picture like this one, for example, or “To Caper Nimbly in a Lady's Chamber”, music figures as an emblem of a destructive and worldly luxuriousness. This negative valence is all the more significant because, in an ideal frame of reference, music is the proper form of a transcendental awareness. The latter perspective dominates in pictures like A Christmas Carol. “Hist!” Said Kate the Queen is particularly relevant because it is a representation of the basic contradiction itself. A number of DGR's later paintings—for example, A Sea Spell—are clearly attempts to provoke the viewer to reflect upon this contradiction.

As the latter double work suggests, these antithetical valences pervade DGR's textual works as well. It seems clear, however, that his aesthetic aspiration is toward the achievement of a Paterian “condition of music” in his work. See for example Song and Music, The Monochord, and Chimes.


“The model Rossetti is following is Venetian art” ( Grieve, The Pre–Raphaelites, 287 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s170.raw.xml