Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Wednesday 16th December - Dante's Dream

 While looking for pictures for Snogvent, I obviously wanted to have as many Pre-Raphaelite pics here as possible,but it is a bit of a universal truth that, despite being seen as one of histories massive sharky letches, Rossetti did not do many pictures of kissing. Thinking about it, even his most famous picture of kissing has one solitary figure in it...

Bocca Baciata (1859) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Yes, well, the lovely model, Fanny Cornforth, might well have had a kissable mouth (as referred to in the title) but we'll have to take your word for it as there is no-one around to kiss her. The title refers to the poem by Boccaccio, which says that the mouth that has been kissed does not lose its beauty, but renews itself like the moon. So all that kissing is good for us, which is a relief, however Rossetti mostly tells us this rather than shows us, as on the whole there is very little happy coupling in Rossetti's art. This certainly doesn't count...

How They Met Themselves (1860-4)

No-one in this picture is say 'Give us a kiss!' - more like 'argh!' or general noises of gurgled terrors. None of that is traditionally romantic, so what did he have to offer?

Two Lovers (1853)
You can see that the floppy haired lover-boy is really trying to kiss his Siddal-ish lady.  He's all puckered up but she is having none of it.  I don't know about you, but her expression says 'Your kissing makes me sad,' and that's not a brilliant sentiment.
Carlisle Wall (1853)

 This couple look a bit more cuddly, but all you are getting is some hand kissing on a chilly wall.  Still not romantic enough. Come on Rossetti, where is all that romance and passion we have been led to believe you were capable of via Aiden Turner and Oliver Reed? T'uh.  

In the end, the only good kiss is a dead kiss when it comes to Rossetti...

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice (1856)

Here we have a rather deceased Beatrice (played by Margaret Thompson) being kissed by Love while Annie Miller holds the canopy with another young woman.  Rumour has it that Dante was a portrait of William Michael Rossetti, but I'm not sure who played Love.  I must admit, I'm not so fond of Rossetti's watercolours (heresy to say so, I know) and prefer the oil...

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice (1871)

 Okay, so now we have Jane Morris as the expired Beatrice, canopied by Alexa Wilding and Marie Stillman.  William Stillman, husband of Marie, played Dante and Love is Johnston Forbes-Robertson...

Forbes-Robertson in a suit of Heatherley's property armour (1870) Samuel Butler

 Well, blimey, Father Christmas got my letter. Mr Forbes-Robertson was 18 at the time of the painting and was brought in to replace Edward Hughes as the figure and (more importantly) face of Love.  He had a classically handsome face even as a teenager - he was only 17 at the time of the photograph above -  and that did him no harm when it came to his subsequent acting career.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson (c.1900) Lizzie Caswall Smith

 Lawks, you could ski down the smooth slopes of that face. I wouldn't mind getting a kiss off him but then the very smooth, polished beauty of JFB is beyond passion.  It's all rather holy and harmless, despite him being a very handsome chap, so yet again Rossetti delivers another scene of muted passion.  So what can we take from this?

Don't tell me Desperate Romantics lied!?!

 It suits the narrative of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (TM) to have Rossetti as the lusty one (as opposed to the mad, religious one and the one who had too much talent).  It makes a good story, keeps us interested and to be honest he wasn't above believing that himself.  However, looking at the evidence, there is very little proof that Rossetti was Lusty Spice, in fact much evidence to the contrary.  Possibly sleeping with three women for the whole of his life (I say 'possibly' because his affair with Jane Morris must have been hampered by his hydrocele, ouch) (also, do not accidentally Google hydrocele while you are checking the spelling. Double ouch) really shouldn't be the stuff of a legendary Casanova.  His paintings, while obviously admiring beautiful women, renders them alone and untouchable, behind tables, windowsills and occasionally up trees. It's almost like he wanted the world to believe he was the great lover but his subconscious betrayed him. Women can be kissed but only after death and then as a posthumous signal that you loved them. Love eludes the people in Rossetti's paintings and death comes before public (or even private) displays of affection. That's rather sad and equally as painful as hydrocele.

I know we can't kiss those we love right now, but we can tell them that we love them.  So, I am sending my love out today to all my dear ones who I miss so much.  I'm thinking of you and look forward to when we are all back together again.  See you (virtually) tomorrow...


  1. Kirsty

    you are right abut DGR's largely sexless experience

    but two art works worth posting are Paolo & Francesca and Roman de la Rose design which Swinburne claimed to have posed for as if kissing Fanny...

    Jan [i can't seem to link images to this comment]

  2. Thanks Jan! Hope you are keeping well and safe.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx