Chapel before the Lists

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1857-1864


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 80-81.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 56 (no. 99).

Scholarly Commentary


Marillier describes this as “a scene suggested by Malory. In a lighted chapel a lady is helping to arm a kneeling knight in red, her long white head-dress, as she stoops to kiss him, falling like a mantle down her blue dress. She is holding his long two-handed sword. Upon the pointed shield of the knight is a figure of a maiden in distress (Andromeda, or the Princess in the dragon story). Beyond the chapel is a tented field, and knights going forth to joust” ( Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 80-81 ).

The scene is perhaps more ambiguous than Marillier's account suggests. The knight's embrace is fulsome, even erotic (in contrast with the kiss exchanged in either The Rose Garden or Love's Greeting). Indeed, the fact that the kiss is given in a chapel only increases the ambiguity of the scene, particularly if one regards the general context are Malorian (rather than Froissartian).

Production History

Surtees quotes from Madox Brown's diary for January 1856 describing what is perhaps the first version of this picture: “A lady and a knight praying before an altar. He offers his sword and she fixes her sleeve on his basnet. Overhead, in the disance, is seen ‘a black tower’, and beside is a black knight, mounted, waiting with his lance in rest for the combat. . .an admirable picture of the world of our fathers with its chief characteristics—religion, art, chivalry, and love” ( Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 56n. ). This would have been the picture that Morris purchased from DGR in 1858. Later, in 1864, five of the pictures that Morris had purchased earlier were back in DGR's studio for resale. DGR came to an agreement about purchasing these five plus one other. While he had these pictures again, he reworked several of them, and in particular this picture.

It is not certain that Brown's diary is describing the early version of this picture or perhaps an early version of Before the Battle, a work clearly related to this one.


Most commentators assert that the picture is inspired by Malory (though it does not illustrate any particular text or event). DGR was equally enamoured of Froissart, however, and the scene appears to be generally chivalric, as Brown's diary observes..

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s99.raw.xml