Friday, 29 April 2011

The Seed of David Triptych - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Llandaff Cathedral is a few minutes drive from where I live in Cardiff, so I have finally had a closer look at Rossetti’s triptych called “The Seed of David”.  It was commissioned in 1856 as a backdrop for the altar but was moved to safe storage during the war, which was just as well as the cathedral was severely damaged by a German landmine.

The triptych is found behind wrought iron railings in a small chapel to the left as you enter the main door. There was once a stern notice forbidding photography but this has now gone and the cathedral staff were happy for me to take some pictures.

As far as I can tell the work has only left the cathedral in 2003/4, when it was the centrepiece of a touring exhibition of Rossetti’s works which were displayed in Liverpool and Amsterdam.

The centre panel is an Adoration of the Magi, with David to the left as a young boy and on the right as a king. Rossetti wrote a letter to Charles Eliot Norton  in 1858 when he was working on the triptych, saying he was planning to paint "the Nativity; for the side pieces to which I have David as Shepherd and David as King — the ancestor of Christ, embodying in his own person the shepherd and king who are seen worshipping in the Nativity".

William Morris posed for David as a young man and Jane Morris was of course Rossetti’s only choice for the model for the Virgin Mary in the central nativity panel.