Mrs. William Morris

Alternately titled: The Blue Silk Dress

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1868
Model: Jane Burden Morris


◦ Benedetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 273.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 176 (no. 372).

Scholarly Commentary


Though not technically a double work, the painting is connected to many of DGR's most central writings and pictures. The all but explicit connection to “The Portrait” is made via the Latin verse inscription that DGR composed for the painting. From that nexus a host of other relations proliferates, as the scholarly commentary shows. “The Portrait”, for example, has been the center of a long controversy about the specific painting to be associated with the sonnet so titled. But the truth is that DGR's whole aesthetic life was a pursuit of this ideal image of Beauty. Mrs. Morris came ultimately to represent for him perhaps the closest incarnation that he had ever known of that ideal form. The pictures most closely related to this one are Reverie, La Pia de' Tolomei, Aurea Catena, The Portrait, and Mariana, all of which were being executed about the same time.

The relation to the last of those pictures has sometimes led commentators to see all these pictures and associated poems as DGR's critical reflections on Jane Morris's marital situation. The interpretation has a Freudian validity. But we want to recall as well the entire neo-platonic tradition that was more specifically in DGR's mind, and that was the initiating mechaniism and framework for his work from the very first, as the signature example of The Blessed Damozel shows.

See also the commentary for the drawing of October 1868.

Textual History: Revision

The Latin verse text inscribed along the top of this picture was copied out by DGR in one of his notebooks. WMR printed it in his 1911 edition.

Production History

The picture was being worked on in the summer of 1868 (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 68. 110 , DGR's letter to Alice Boyd of 24 July 1868).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s372.raw.xml