The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice

Alternately titled: Dante Drawing the Angel

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848-1849


◦ Bentley, “Serioux d‘Agincourt’s Histoire”, 33-42.

◦ Fredeman, Correspondence, 48.12.

◦ Grieve, Art of DGR: Pre–Raphaelite Period, 9-10.

The Pre–Raphaelites, Tate 1984, 244.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 12 (no. 42).

Scholarly Commentary


As DGR told Charles Lyell in a letter of November 14, 1848, this is one of the “series of original designs which I have commenced in illustration of” his translation of The New Life which he had recently completed (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 48.12 ). Of the ten subjects DGR planned, three were apparently completed, according to DGR's letter to Lyell: “Of the designs I have completed, as yet, only three: viz: 1st Dante overhearing the conversation of the friends of Beatrice after the death of her father: 2nd Dante interrupted while drawing an angel in memory of Beatrice: & 3rd an emblematical frontispiece. In this last, I have introduced on one side the figure of Dante and on the other that of Beatrice: while in the centre, Love is represented, holding in one hand a sun-dial, and in the other a lamp; the shadow cast by the lamp upon the dial being made to fall upon the figure nine. At the same time, Death, standing behind, is drawing from the quiver of Love an arrow wherewith to strike Beatrice”. The first of these seems not to have survived, the second is the present work, and the third is related to a sketch at Birmingham.

DGR projected ten further illustrations, which he outlined in his letter to Lyell: “Ever since I have read the ‘Vita Nuova,’ I have always borne it in mind as a work offering admirable opportunities for pictorial illustration: a task which I am now resolved to attempt. The other subjects which I propose treating are as follows: 1st The first meeting of Dante and Beatrice (already commenced): 2nd The second meeting: 3rd The salutation denied: 4th Dante treated with scorn by Beatrice at the Wedding-feast: 5th Dante questioned by the ladies: 6th Dante's dream: 7th Dante requested to write by the kinsman of Beatrice: 8th Dante perceives a lady who is observing his grief from a window: 9th Dante's vision of the childhood of Beatrice: 10th Dante and the pilgrims”. Only the first of these further drawings was completed, a pen and pencil sketch for the first meeting of Dante and Beatrice. Later DGR went on to make his elaborate pictorial study, in many versions, of Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice.

Production History

DGR made his first sketches for this work in September 1848: the Royal Institute of British Architects has a nearly finished drawing dated that month as well as a rough draft of the same drawing. The following year he made this lovely finished pen and ink drawing which he gave to Millais and from which he made a subsequent copy that he gave to F. G. Stevens.


As with so many of DGR's subsequent 1850s pictures, this contains various Düreresque paraphernalia. Grieve's account of the drawings' debts to Lasinio, Millais, Giotto, and Camille Bonnard is pertinent (see The Pre–Raphaelites, Tate 1984, 244 ).

In 1853 DGR made a very different version of this subject in watercolour.


The picture references the scene in the Vita Nuova where Dante writes that “I set myself again to mine occupation, to wit, to the drawing figures of angels: in doing which, I conceived to write of this matter in rhyme, as for her anniversary” (see DGR's translation of The New Life ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s42.raw.xml