“Born with his life, a creature of ardent thirst and exquisite appetites, there, next to his heart throbbed in the darkness – until that day a voice called for him, and the snares of birth melted”
MILAN – Today the world of art recalls the death of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which took place in Birchington in 1882. Famous British painter and poet, he was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite artistic movement together with William Hunt, Ford Madox Brown and John Everett Millais. STYLE– Rossetti’s breathless research is manifested in the creation and evocation of a symbolic space contrasted with the compositional virtuosity of the late Renaissance tradition. The works that this painter and poet of Italian origins left us are, in fact, the most successful result of a series of artistic and literary suggestions that have their roots in the rich tradition of Italian sacred art – from Giotto to the painters preceding Raphael – and in the stylnovistic readings. But Rossetti never denies his era of belonging and even in his first pictorial compositions, which belong to that initial phase of pre-Raphaelism defined as “gothic” or “hard edge”, strong and the relationship between the “primitive” and iconographic spiritual elements of Italian art and the passionate and unconscious ones of nineteenth-century romanticism. That spiritual aura that Rossetti eagerly seeks in the name of truth is here reached and sublimated by the profound humanity of the Virgin who already embodies the stylistic image of the “angelic” woman that the painter will develop in greater depth in subsequent works. Involved more and more by the lesson of Dante, who is for him a model of inspiration not only as regards art but also life, Rossetti creates splendid works inspired by the Vita Nuova and the Divine Comedy, such as the Beata Beatrix (1864- 1870) and Pia de ‘Tolomei (1868).
On the anniversary of his death, we offer you a small selection of his masterpieces. 1. HERE IS ANCILLA DOMINI– The painting, made between 1849 4 1850, shows the moment of the Annunciation, in which the Archangel Gabriel communicates the conception and future birth of Jesus Christ to Mary. The story is represented with extreme realism, recognizable both in the colors and in the pictorial style and in the attitudes of the characters. The Archangel Gabriel, painted in a completely human form, stands in front of the virgin’s bed and hands her a lily; like Mary and wrapped in a white robe, whose lower hem bears strong golden reflections. The Madonna, seated on a humble bed, appears frightened and fearful, unlike the usual paintings on the same theme. Other elements present in the picture are the red stole and the blue curtain near the window, in addition to the dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit;2. BLESSED BEATRIX – The entire work is an allegory on love in which the artist portrays the death scene of Beatrice Portinari as described in Dante Alighieri’s Vita Nuova. In particular, the last sentence of the prosimeter is represented, in which the poet writes: ‘That blessed Beatrice who gloriously aims at the face of him qui est per omnia soecula benedictus’. The artist portrays the protagonist with the likeness of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal. Just as Dante idealized love in the figure of Beatrice, so Rossetti idealized the concept of love with his wife, who committed suicide in 1862. 3. VENERE VERTICORDIA –The Venus Verticordia was painted in 1868 and is considered the pinnacle of Pre-Raphaelite research. A powerful and “subversive” image of female sensuality in the middle of the Victorian era. The work caused the end of the friendship between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the famous English art historian John Ruskin who opposed their “revolutionary” sensuality. The artist’s “Venus Verticordia” has red hair, a symbol of evil for the Middle Ages, a reminder of witchcraft, but has a halo on her head: and a pagan-Christian syncretism. She has one bare breast that emerges timidly from behind her arm, the other is covered; she has full red lips and a fixed gaze. Mary is in the halo, Eve in the apple. The arrow, then, and the symbol of cupid. The Venus is immersed in a floral frame and surrounded by butterflies, a symbol of beauty that is fleeting but enthralls.4. PERSEPHONE – This famous painting was made in 1874. The artist captures the young goddess in the decisive moment of her story: she is tasting the pomegranate that will condemn her to remain in the Underworld with Hades. The painting conveys a very intense emotion, one is captured by the look of the girl, gloomy, tense. A look that goes beyond the observer, towards something that the observer himself cannot see. 5. THE BRIDE– The painting was made between 1865 and 1866. The protagonist is the woman in the center, the bride, dressed in an emerald green dress and caught taking off her veil. She is surrounded by her handmaids, and the whole is depicted with a remarkable taste for the exotic, as we can see by observing, the black boy, the fabrics of the clothes (that of the bride looks like a Japanese kimono), the jewels: all made with very vivid colors. The symbolism of the work is dense: the boy in the foreground holds a vase of roses (a symbol of beauty), the handmaids instead carry red lilies which are a symbol of purity and refer directly to the text of the Song of Songs (‘My beloved and mine and I am his, he grazes his flock among the lilies’, Song of Songs, 2:16),April 9, 2015

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