Food for the Soul: The Rossettis – an Exhibition at Tate Britain

Rossetti, Monna Vanna, N03054

By Nina Heyn

There are so many artworks in London museums that you can always find a substantial exhibition taking place, no matter when you visit. Such is the case now at Tate Britain—part of the national galleries of British art. The Rossettis is a show devoted principally to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and his family, fellow artists, and muses. Gabriel (Dante was the name he adopted in adulthood, so we will just call him Gabriel here) was a poet, illustrator, and painter whose background in Italian literature fed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement that he launched with a group of London intellectuals in 1848. The show is titled The Rossettis because Gabriel came from a family of artists and writers, and all his siblings wrote and drew from an early age. Their father, a political immigrant from Italy, became a professor of Italian at King’s College, and he devoted his life to studying and popularizing Dante Alighieri’s work. Gabriel’s sister Christina was an accomplished poet, while his other siblings Maria and William Michael were also writers. And then there were, of course, Gabriel’s lovers, some of whom he married, and all of whom modeled for his portraits of mythological and historical characters that he painted in the new style he co-invented.

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