Ballad of Fair Annie

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1854-1856


◦ Grieve, Art of DGR: Watercolors and Drawings, 65-67

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 32-33 (no. 68).

The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 275.

◦ Treuherz, Prettijohn, Becker, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 173-174.

Scholarly Commentary


DGR wrote to Madox Brown on 23 May 1854 that he and Elizabeth Siddal “are going to illustrate the old Scottish ballads which Allingham is editing for Routledge. She has just done her first block (from ‘Clerk Saunders’) and it is lovely. Her power of designing even increases greatly, and her fecundity of invention & facility are quite wonderful, much greater than mine” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 54.49 ). This drawing, which was to have been one of those illustrations, treats the ancient ballad of “Lord Thomas and Fair Annie”. The ballad tells the story of a girl of unknown parentage (Annie) who becomes the mistress of Lord Thomas and bears him seven children. When he goes abroad to seek a wife, he brings back Annie's sister Eleanor. When the sisters discover their relationship, Eleanor abandons the marriage plans, Annie and Lord Thomas are wed, and Eleanor returns home. DGR would have known the ballad from Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, III. 311-319 .

Production History

Grieve observes that the subject “was an old favorite with Rossetti and there are rough sketches illustrating it from as early as c. 1846-7. . . .In a small sheet of these studies we see Rossetti arriving at the inclident he wished to show—the meeting of the sisters ‘below stairs’, the mistress with her child, the rich sister dressed for the wedding” ( Grieve, Art of DGR: Watercolors and Drawings, 65-66 ). The finished drawing is one of DGR's finest.


Allingham published The Ballad Book in 1864 but it contained none of the illustrations DGR had projected in his 1854 letter to Brown. It did print a version of the ballad under the title “Fair Annie” ( The Ballad Book, 83-88 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s68.raw.xml