Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1855
Model: Elizabeth Siddal sat for Rachel.


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 66-67.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 35-36 (no. 74).

The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 276-277

◦ Treuherz, Prettijohn, Becker, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 159-160.

Scholarly Commentary


Ruskin, who commissioned this picture, praised it highly (see his letters to Ellen Heaton of November 1855 in Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 35-36.). The two women, seated at the fountain in the Earthly Paradise, “symbolise the active and the contemplative life. Leah, the active one, works with tendrils of honeysuckle and carries a red rose in her long loose hair. Both flowers had connotations of sexual attraction for Rossetti. She wears a green dress, the colour of life. Rachel is dressed in purple, the colour Rossetti often associates with inactivity and sometimes even with death” ( Grieve, The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 276 ). This dichotomy of “Soul's Beauty” and “Body's Beauty” of course runs throughout all of DGR's work.

Production History

In April 1855 Ruskin proposed to DGR that he do a series of seven pictures illustrating the Purgatorio . DGR executed two, this picture and the watercolour Dante's Vision of Matilda Gathering Flowers . The two were completed sometime in the late summer or early fall 1855, after Madox Brown had suggested various improvements, in particular to this picture. On 3 September DGR told Brown that it had been greatly improved and that Ruskin paid £30 for it. In November Ellen Heaton became involved with the picture through Ruskin's generosity and it passed to her at that time (see Fredeman, Correspondence,55. 45; 55. 57 ).


The literary source is Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XXVII. 94-108 .

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s74.raw.xml