Veronica Veronese

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

1872 January-March

Physical Description

Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 43 x 35 in.
Signature: DGR
Date on Image: 1872
Note: Signed and dated in the lower right.

Production Description

Production Date: 1872 January-March
Exhibition History: RA 1883 (no.295); Wilmington 1934; Wilmington 1976; Yale (New Haven), 1976
Patron: F. R. Leyland
Date Commissioned: 1872
Original Cost: £840
Model: Alexa Wilding


Current Location: Bancroft Collection, Wilmington Society of Fine Arts, Delaware

Scholarly Commentary


The painting is one of the most important among the many Venetian-inspired pictures that dominate DGR's artistic output during the 1860s and 1870s. Elaborately decorative, it is an excellent example of the abstract way DGR handles ostensibly figurative subject matter. As its various commentators have noticed, the picture represents “the artistic soul in the act of creation” (Ainsworth 97). It is a visionary portrait of that soul as it had been incarnated in the practise of Paolo Veronese.

Production History

Begun in January 1872 without any explicit commission, the painting was bought by Frederick Leyland as soon as DGR told him about it, and described his intentions for the work. DGR completed it in March of the same year and sent it to Leyland at that time.


The French quotation on the picture frame, supposedly from The Letters of Girolamo Ridolfi, was actually written by DGR or possibly Swinburne. It constitutes a kind of explanation of some of the picture's most important iconographical features: “Suddenly leaning forward, the Lady Veronica rapidly wrote the first notes on the virgin page. Then she took the bow of her violin to make her dream reality; but before commencing to play the instrument hanging from her hand, she remained quiet a few moments, listening to the inspiring bird, while her left hand strayed over the strings searching for the supreme melody, still elusive. It was the marriage of the voices of nature and the soul—the dawn of a mystic creation” (this is Rowland Elzea's translation of the French text on the picture frame). The “marriage” noted here is emblematically represented in the figure of the uncaged bird, which stands simultaneously as a figure of nature and of the soul.

Sarah Phelps Smith has explicated the picture's flower symbolism: the bird cage is decorated with camomile, or “energy in adversity”; the primroses symbolize youth and the daffodils (narcissi) stand for reflection or meditation. But David Nolta argues that the camomile is in fact celandine, which in herbal lore was a notable specific for diseases of the eyes. (Nolta's autobiographical reading of the picture is greatly strengthened by this view of the flower symbolism.)


The green velvet dress in the picture was borrowed from Jane Morris, the background drapery is a Renaissance brocade, the jewelry is Indian silver, the violin is from DGR's collection of musical instruments. The fan hanging at her side is the same as that which appears extended in Monna Vanna . The musical manuscript showing the first bars of a composition seems in debt to George Boyce, to whom DGR wrote in March 1872 asking if he “had any old written music & could you lend me such” (quoted in Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné I. 128).


The french inscription attributed to Girolamo Ridolfi is almost certainly the work of Swinburne.


David Nolta (see bibliography) gives a very persuasive autobiographical reading of the picture


Veronica Veronese
Description: See the description by Stephens, originally written for his essay on DGR in the 1883 Athenaeum; also the description by Marillier.
Copyright: © Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial

Included Text

Se penchant vivement, la Veronica jeta les premières notes sur la feuille vierge. Ensuite elle prit l'archet du violon pour réaliser son rêve; mais avant de décrocher l'instrument suspendu, elle resta quelques instants immobile en écoutant l'oiseau inspirateur, pendant que sa main gauche errait sur les cordes cherchant le motif suprême encore eloigné. C'était le mariage des voix de la nature et de l'âme—l'aube d'une création mystique.
Lettres de Girolamo Ridolfi
Note: This passage is inscribed upon the frame.


  1. image

    Angeli, DGR con 107 illustrazioni , 123.
  2. image

    Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, facing page 168.
  3. image

    Phythian, The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 48
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    Gowans and Gray, Masterpieces of DGR , page 48.
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    Radford, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 41.
  6. Elzea, Bancroft and Related Collections, 121.

    (image unavailable)
  7. Toohey, Bancroft Collection, 21.

    (image unavailable)
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    Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné , vol. 2, plate 325.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
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