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'The Blessed Damozel', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A red haired woman leaning downwards with two angels beneath. A man reclines below.

  • Oil on canvas.
  • Main picture 111 cm x 82.7 cm (43 3/4" x 32 1/2") predella picture 36.5 cm x 82.8 cm (14 3/8" x 32 5/8") 1875-79
  • Signed D G Rossetti.
  • Lady Lever Art Gallery

This painting is based upon Dante Gabriel Rossetti|'s poem 'The Blessed Damozel', which he wrote when he was nineteen and published in the short-lived Pre-Raphaelite journal, 'The Germ'. In 1870, Rossetti's collected poems were re-published and excited a great deal of critical attention. In 1871, William Graham, a major patron of Rossetti, commissioned the version of this painting that is now in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard.

Detail showing a man recling

Another of Rossetti's few patrons, the Liverpool shipowner FR Leyland, bought this, the second version. The picture is split into two sections with a principal canvas on top and a narrow predella canvas beneath - rather in the manner of Italian 14th -and 15th - century altarpieces. The upper part depicts Heaven from which the Damozel, leaning over a golden bar and surrounded by angels, melancholically looks down towards her earthbound lover who is reclining in the lower predella. Rossetti's poem is a long reflective musing by the woman on her condition in Heaven, interspersed with mystic-erotic reveries about her future reuniting with her young man.

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