• Male and female figure holding hands.

    The Pre-Raphaelites had a respectful attitude towards women, believing in chivalry. Such attitudes would be popularised by texts such as Ruskin’s ‘Of Queens’ Gardens’ (1864). However, the Pre-Raphaelites still saw women as objects of desire, labelling beautiful women as ‘stunners’. This would be expressed most sensuously in Rossetti’s work. Holman Hunt had depicted lovers in The Awakening Conscience and The Hireling Shepherd but would later focus on more religious subjects whilst Madox Brown favoured historical themes.
  • Man playing a musical intrument to a woman. Both standing at a window.
    As important to the Pre-Raphaelites as desire was love. Despite the practical need, the Victorian ideal of marriage was as loving or, at the very least, companionate.

    Looking at the following images of love or lovers, how is love represented? Are the lovers real, historical, literary or allegorical? What messages might the work convey about love?

    Rossetti, Two Lovers
    Rossetti, Two Lovers at a Window
    Millais, Lovers by a Rosebush
    Arthur Hughes, The Long Engagement
    Simeon Solomon, Love
    Simeon Solomon, The Singing of Love
    Millais, Waiting
  • Lover bending to release the skirt of his beloved from the thorns of a rosebush.
  • In an overgrown forest setting, a clergy man meets his lover. The man stands in the shadow of the tree and the woman looks at her name carved into the bark of the tree. Their hands are clasped together and a faithful dog stands at their feet staring up at them.
  • The full length figure of a nude angel, facing front, hovers over the ground, wings unfurled behind, drapery swirling and twisting around the body. The haloed angel's head is crowned with small flames; eyes look downwards and arms are raised.
  • Four male figures and three female figures sit along a bench: all seven are full length nudes apart from one woman wearing a flowing robe. Their feet rest on a plinth on which their titles are inscribed: Somnus, Memoria, Morpheus, Amor, Voluptas, Libido and Mors. In the centre the winged and haloed figure of Love (Amor) holds a branch and, mouth open, appears to be singing. The figures wear or hold symbols which are related to their titles. Further attributes appear behind the figures and at their feet.
  • Young female wearing a bonnet and cape sits on wooden steps set within a stone wall. She looks towards the right as if waiting for someone.
  • The a young woman is shown seated and half length at the moment of suspension between life and death. A bird drops it's red poppy between her open hands. In the background Dante is shown looking across to the figure of Love.The frame has four incised roundels, one on each side.

    Beata Beatrix

    Multiple Artists


    Rossetti’s personal model of ideal love was that of Dante and Beatrice, the subject of many of his works, including Beata Beatrix, The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice in Paradise and The Salutation of Beatrice.

    How does Rossetti represent the relationship between Dante and Beatrice in these works and what does his treatment suggest about the way in which he viewed their story?
  • Female figure greets a male figure. Seven angels behind.
  • Dante on the left looks towards Beatrice, who stands on the right with her hands before her. A winged Love stands in the centre holding a dial.
  • The seated lovers about to kiss.
    Munro, Paolo and Francesca: This subject, also treated by Rossetti (1855 watercolour, Tate collection), is taken from Dante’s Inferno. Paolo is Francesca’s brother-in-law; their love is therefore illicit. Munro’s sculpture shows the lovers together, the act of reading inspiring them to act on their own love.

    How does Munro’s sculpture compare to Rossetti’s watercolour?

    Does Dante actually describe the lovers reading?
    If so, what are they reading?

    Further reading:

    Kern, Stephen, Eyes of Love: The Gaze in English and French Paintings and Novels 1840-1900. London: Reaktion Books, 1996

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