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BOOK REVIEWS The Other Rossettis Angela Thirlwell. William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. xiv + 376 pp. $45.00 WHEN I WAS a graduate student in History at Harvard almost fifty years ago the Pre-Raphaelite painters had a generally low reputation . At the Fogg, the university art museum, they were not subjected to the lowest level of visibility by being in storage. But they were hung obscurely , if I remember correctly, on a corridor on an upper floor. Now the situation has changed utterly. In the catalogue of the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in London, Richard Dorment very effectively charts the return to favor of these painters, most notably Dante Gabriel Rossetti, by the most telling of indexes, prices at auction houses. Those very Harvard paintings, part of the Grenville L. Winthrop Bequest, have recently been proudly on tour in New York at the Metropolitan Museum and in London at the National Gallery. I was lucky to see two other major exhibitions in England, one exclusively Rossetti himself. The first, The Pre-Raphaelites and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection (London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2003), was a bit too much of a celebrity event, and the critics enjoyed, with some reason, tearing it down. It was all a little too commercial, sponsored by Christie's as well as the UBS Wealth Management magazine. The quality of the art was quite variable, although there were some wonderful Rossettis, outstanding Burne-Joneses and splendid examples of Victorian decorative art, mostly by figures associated with William Morris. The low quality of some of the works on display reminded one more forcefully than one might have wished why the Victorians had been once so despised in modern times for their sentimentality. There are excellent essays in the catalogue by, among others, Julian Treuherz, Debra Mancoff, Tim Barringer, Charlotte Gere, and Peter Cormack. Rather arbitrarily, only because Lloyd Webber owns them, there are tacked onto the exhibition a few examples of Munnings, Lowry, Spencer, Picasso, Canaletto and Reynolds, reinforcing the "vanity" feeling of the display. The Rossetti exhibition in Liverpool (also shown in Amsterdam) was a much more impressive event, leading to an even more favorable evaluation of his art. As works were drawn from various collections, their quality was much higher (Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Waanders Publishers, 2003]). Using this catalogue it is possible to consider in a careful way Rossetti's art. Particularly striking were the numerous portraits of Jane Morris, Morris's wife and Rossetti's mistress. Also in the exhibition were 367 ELT 48 : 3 2005 eight dramatic photographs of her by John Robert Parsons that Rossetti had commissioned in 1865.1 was quite pleased to find in Liverpool an excellent illustrated book on Jane Morris, published in San Francisco, and written by Debra Mancoff: Jane Morris: The Pre-Raphaelite Model of Beauty (Pomegranate, 2000). It makes one clearly aware of her iconic status, her powerful presence, her extraordinary silence (which might have been derived from the fact that she had little to say) that emerges so clearly from the portraits of her. It's rather surprising that Mancoff does not quote Henry James's famous description of her that begins: "A figure cut out of a missal—out of one of Rossetti's or Hunt's pictures—to say this gives but a faint idea of her, because when such an image puts on flesh and blood, it is an apparition of fearful and wonderful intensity." But the main work I wish to consider here is somewhat parallel to the study of Jane Morris. It is a biographical examination of two comparatively minor figures: William Michael Rossetti and his wife Lucy, the daughter of the painter Ford Madox Brown. William was less famous than his artist brother or poet sister, Christina. There was yet another sibling Rossetti, the eldest, Maria, who became an Anglican nun, devout like Christina in contrast to the freethinking Gabriel and William. William dramatically outlived his siblings, Maria (1827-1876), Dante (1828-1882), and Christina (1830-1894). Bom in 1829, he did not die until 1919. He also outlived his wife who died of consumption in 1894 when she was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 367-370
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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