Washing Hands

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1865 August
Model: Ellen Smith
Model: Charles Augustus Howell


◦ Fredeman, Correspondence, 65.101.

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 138-139.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 103 (no. 179).

Scholarly Commentary


Marillier notes that, besides Dr. Johnson at the Mitre, this is DGR's “one experiment in eighteenth-century costume”. DGR himself described the picture in detail in a letter to an unknown correspondent (quoted by Marillier): “The drawing. . .represents the last stage of an unlucky love affair. The lady has gone behind the screen (in the dining-room perhaps) to wash her hands; and the gentleman, her lover, has followed her there, and has still something to say, but she has made up her mind. We may suppose that others are present, and that this is his only chance of speaking. I mean it to represent that state of a courtship when both of the parties have come to see in reality that it will never do, but when the lady, I think, is generally the first to have the strength to act on such knowledge. It is all over, in my picture, and she is washing her hands of it” ( Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 139).

Production History

On 28 June 1865 DGR told Madox Brown that he had “just begun” this picture ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 65.101 ). Frederick Craven bought the picture and completed payment on 16 August, though whether the picture was ready at that point is not certain. DGR was still working on it in early August.


DGR called this work “a companion to ” Aurora. The latter was begun and completed before this picture ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 65.101 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s179.raw.xml