Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: 'La Donna Della Finestra'

Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth
Were never yet shown forth so perfectly
In any lady's face, chancing to see
Grief's miserable countenance uncouth,
As in thine, lady, they have sprung to soothe,
When in mine anguish thou hast lookd on me;
Until sometimes it seems as if, through thee,
My heart might almost wander from its truth.
Yet so it is, I cannot hold mine eyes
From gazing very often upon thine.
In the sore hope to shed those tears they keep;
And at such time, thou mask'st the pent tears rise
Even to the brim, till the eyes wast and pine;
Yet cannot they, while thou art present, weep.

Rossetti's model Jane Morris

First worked as a sketch in chalks in 1877, the version shown here is the oil painting completed in 1879.  The model was Jane Morris, who Rossetti had fallen in love with two years earlier.  It is claimed that Rossetti portrays Jane as 'La Donna Della Finestra' (The Woman in the Window) because she helped him overcome the death of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal – but that was fifteen years earlier in 1862.

A more likely explanation is that although they definitely had a deep emotional relationship, Jane Morris was the wife of Rossetti’s friend William Morris,  so their love allegedly was never sexual and Rossetti became totally obsessed with her. 

Inspiration for 'La Donna Della Finestra'

The idea of the woman in the window was inspired by Dante's Vita Nuova (The life of Nuova), which defined Rossetti's attitudes to love and was translated by him into English in 1850.  The woman appears at the window appears when Dante is grieving for the death of Beatrice and William Michael Rossetti wrote:

'Humanly she is the Lady at the Window; mentally she is the Lady of Pity. This interpretation of soul and body this sense of an equal and undefensible reality of the thing symbolized, and of the form which conveys the symbol this externalism and internalism are constantly to be understood as the key-note of Rossetti's aim and performance in art.

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