The Tune of Seven Towers

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1857


◦ Cummings and Staley, Romantic Art in Britain, 314-315.

◦ Lourie “The Embodiment of Dreams”, 193-206.

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 81.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 51 (no. 92).

The Pre–Raphaelites, Tate 1984, 281

◦ Treuherz, Prettijohn, Becker, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 179.

Scholarly Commentary


In 1856-1857, influenced by his new friends Morris and Burne-Jones, DGR executed a series of superb medieval fantasy pictures. This and The Blue Closet are among the most powerful and mysterious.

This painting as well as Morris's dependent poem may well be referencing the Turkish castle of the Seven Towers, which was built as a defense for Constantinople (Istanbul). Celebrated in both the history and legends of chivalry and the Crusades, the castle was used as a luxurious prison for the dignitaries, including ministers and ambassadors, of the powers with whom the Turkish Empire was at war. The scallop shell worn by the woman in red may well be an emblem relevant to the scene depicted in the picture. Perhaps we are to imagine that the lady's lover is absent, imprisoned in the castle of the Seven Towers, and that the melancholy pervading the scene reflects her state of mind, with which her two attendants are sympathizing.

Production History

DGR began the work in the spring of 1857 and probably intended to show it in the private exhibition of work by DGR and his friends in Russell Place, which opened in late May. He did not complete the picture in time, however (see Fredeman, Correspondence,57. 23 and n; 57. 24 ).


“At the left side, a maid appears through a hatch to place a branch of an orange-tree, symbol of marriage, on a bed. In an aperture at the right, a dove . . . flutters in a spiral staircase. The pennant hanging on the left side bears the device of a lily and a rose, the moon and the sun, symbols of purity and passion. . . . Around them is a schematic castle with seven towers” ( The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 281 ).


Greive suggests that the composition of this picture is in debt to the 1853 drawing of Michael Scott's Wooing (see The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 281 ).


“As with The Blue Closet, William Morris took the title of DGR's drawing for a poem in The Defence of Guenevere” (Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 51 (no. 92)).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s92.raw.xml