Sancta Lilias

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1879
Model: Alexa Wilding


◦ Marillier, An Illustrated Memorial, 198.

◦ Shefer, “A Rossetti Portrait”, 2-15.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 153.

Scholarly Commentary


This picture, though related in more than its name to the Tate Gallery's Sancta Lilias, is yet a different work.

The picture's distinctive characteristic is its set of pictorial contradictions, which come through in the Virginia Museum of Fine Art version. These features are no part of the Tate Gallery's Sancta Lilias.

Production History

The date on the picture does not explain the circumstances that led DGR to undertake it in 1879. Returning at such a late date to the subject he had handled so elaborately in The Blessed Damozel and its many associated works seems odd unless he had a commission to do so. But no record of such a commission is recorded. In his Tabular List of DGR's pictures, WMR simply lists this work, which carries no further commentary.


According to Marillier, this was “a very popular” work. His remark is odd because the picture has no exhibition history at all, nor do we know very much about its contemporary production circumstances.


As in so many of DGR's pictures of ideal women, the figure here wears the “loose-fitting dress based upon fourteenth-century design” (Shefer 10) that he had made a special feature of his work, beginning with The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. Shefer points out that “this dress symbolized bohemianism and a free style of living” (Shefer 11).


The picture is closely related to The Blessed Damozel—indeed, it is a variant of the damozel, as the Tate Gallery's oil painting titled Sancta Lilias shows: the latter is a cut down state of a version of The Blessed Damozel. Marillier says the 1879 picture “may have been intended for an Annunciation picture.”


The picture is closely related to The Blessed Damozel by virtue of its pictorial connection to the painting The Blessed Damozel.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s257.raw.xml