The Raven: Angel Footfalls

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1846-1848
Subject: Edgar Allen Poe's “The Raven”


◦ Grieve, “Rossetti's Illustrations for Poe,” Apollo 97 (1973), 142-145.

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 24.

The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 243.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 4 (no. 19).

Scholarly Commentary


The remarkable set of drawings illustrates Poe's The Raven. The series represents a defining moment in DGR's artistic life, both in literature and in art. There are four known illustrations by DGR of Poe's famous poem: an early (ca. 1846) chiaroscuro drawing, plus three later pieces (all ca. 1848) in a markedly different style: a pen and wash drawing on light-brown paper, another pen and wash (on light blue paper), and a pen and pencil drawing. All three of the later drawings are linear and sharply articulated, and they clearly relate to the same stylistic urgencies that led DGR to help in the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

That Poe should have been the occasion for this artistic change is both interesting and somewhat remarkable, for Poe is a key figure in the development of DGR's literary style as well. The second-order romanticism developed in Poe's imaginative writings, and explicated in essays like “The Poetic Principle” and “The Philosophy of Composition”, is recapitulated in DGR's work, where the key is primarily Dantean rather than (as in Poe) Shelleyan/Byronic.

DGR also made illustrations for two other Poe works, The Sleeper and Ulalume.

Production History

The earliest of these illustrations was executed in June 1846, a pen and brown ink sketch done in DGR's earlier chiaroscuro style. The three other drawings are all later and in a very different style (ca.1848).


The illustrations are keyed to several passages of Poe's poem, but each drawing is an effort to render the central conception of the poem in general, as DGR read it. The haunting is therefore, in DGR's version, not simply through the spirit of Lenore, but through the imaginative construction of that spirit: hence the presence, in DGR's drawings (but not in Poe's poem) of the “portrait” of Lenore on the wall.

DGR's annotated copy of Poe's The Raven and Other Poems (1846) is in the Troxell Collection, Princeton University Library.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s19.raw.xml