“Hist!” Said Kate the Queen

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849 - 1851


◦ Grieve, Art of DGR: Pre–Raphaelite Period, 51-56.

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 34

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 145-147

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1, 16-17.

Scholarly Commentary


The picture title specifically references Part II line 258 of Browning's Pippa Passes . But as the entirety of the composition shows, DGR is seeking to interpret the whole of Part II of Browning's poem, which treats the love of the sculptor Jules for Phene. Browning's story centers in Jules's desire to cast off his former worldly life and begin his artistic pursuits on a new, spiritual footing based in his Shelleyan love for Phene. Needless to say, this is yet another version of DGR's preoccupation with the idea that pervades his work, not least of all in his Italian translations, especially that of Dante's New Life, and in those key early works “Hand and Soul” and “Old and New Art”.

Although the painting's title quotes line 258 and thus seems to reference Pippa's song at lines 258-261, the composition clearly shows that DGR is thinking of lines 267-270, which begin “‘Nay, list!’—bade Kate the Queen”. This is clear from the presence of the young man at the right of the picture who leans on the balcony with a pair of hawks. This is Browning's “page that carols unseen/Fitting your hawks to their jesses” (II. 269-270).

Production History

Originally planned in 1849, the picture was “in progress” in September 1850, when DGR had completed what he called a “sketch”, which is apparently the small picture now at Eton College. The projected painting was to have been a very large one—“seven feet and a half by four feet” he told his aunt Margaret, who was the intended recipient (see Fredeman, Correspondence 50. 16 ). The picture was subsequently abandoned but before destroying the canvas DGR cut out the head of the principal figure and repainted it for his later painting of Fiammetta, according to WMR (see WMR, Designer and Writer, 72 ). The small painting called The Two Mothers was also cut out of the original abandoned work, and it seems likely that Rossovestita also derived from the large picture of 1849. An 1849 drawing in the British Museum seems to have been a sketch for one of the waiting women in the picture


The queen referred to was Caterina Cornaro (ca. 1454-1510), who was forced to abdicate as queen of Cyprus by the authorities of Venice. Established in a castle at Asolo, she gathered around herself a circle of distinguished artists and men of letters.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s49.raw.xml