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The Principal Pre-Raphaelite Pictures of James Collinson D. M. K Bentley The story of James Collinson's involvement with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is often told as an episode in the life of Christina Rossetti with a comical element generated by his vacillations between High Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.1 According to William Michael Rossetti, Collinson first came to the attention of the female members of the Rossetti family for "his heedful and devout bearing" at Christ Church, Albany Street, which was renowned during the late eighteen forties for the Ritualistic character of its services and accouterments (see Reminiscences 1: 65). Apparently, he proposed to Christina "sometime during October" 1848 (Marsh 90), a little after Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who also knew him from the Royal Academy schools, where they were both students) proposed htm for membership of the Brotherhood. His decision at about the same time to become a Roman Catholic caused Christina to decline his offer,2 which, however, was renewed by his obliging return to the Church of England within a matter of weeks, if not days.3 In "May orJune 1850,"4 the engagement was terminated by Christina when Collinson again avowed his Roman Catholicism, and two years after that, in the autumn of 1852, he entered theJesuit College at Stoneyhurst with the aim of becoming a priest,5 an act interpreted by William Bell Scott as a "truly Tre-Raphaelite' performance ... [and] a warning, especially to [Dante] Gabriel Rossetti" of the dangers of what Rossetti had called "the Art Catholic" (1:281). In "The Purpose and Tendency of Early Italian Art" in the February 1850 number of The Germ, F. G. Stephens theorized Pre-Raphaelite naturalism as the modern artistic equivalent of mediaeval monasticism (58-59). To Scott, Collinson's Victorian Review (2004)21 "performance" proved that the Stephens' two "tendencies" were chiasmic and that the chiasmus that they formed was a crucifix. I In the same number of The Germ as Stephens' article, Collinson published the first of his two most important contributions to the visual corpus of the PRB: the illustrative engraving that accompanies the poem entitled "The ChildJesus. A Record typical of the five Sorrowful Mysteries" (Fig. 1). Taking its erroneously rendered title from the Vulgate text of Psalm 8.2 ( "Ex ore infantium et lactentium perfecisti laudem": "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings perfect praise"-), the engraving is resonantlv Roman Catholic in typography and language as well as imagery and gesture. It depicts a young, haloed, and garlanded Christ surrounded by four young children and two older ones, a young man whose halo indicates that Figure 1 —James Collinson, 'Ex ore infantium et hctentiumperfecisti u_ „ u_ T0Un *-Ue laudem. " Engraving. The Germ 2 (February 1850). Baptist and a young woman who might be taken for the Blessed Virgin if it were not for the fact that she has no halo and is holding one of the small children rather than attending to Christ. Despite the close association of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries with Mary,6 the engravingperse thus avoids any suspicion of Mariolatry, but it does nevertheless include two other "Popish" elements: the banner inscribed "ECCE AGNUS DEI" ("Behold the Lamb of God") in gothic script that hangs from the cross held byJesus andJohn the Baptist, and the genuflectory posture of the child who kneels to kiss Christ's hand. There can be little doubt that the engraving contributed to the "admiration" that was reputedly generated by "The ChildJesus" in High Church circles (see Zaturenska 50) or that both poem and illustration are among the components of The Germ that make it resemble a "Puseyite parish magazine" (House 152). Because it precedes "The ChildJesus" in the magazine, "Ex ore infantium et lactentium perfecisti laudem" is at some remove from the passage of the poem to which it most directly pertains, the section of "The Crowning with Thorns" in which five singing children approach the youngJesus as he is sitting alone on a beach beside the Sea of Galilee. "[W]hen they saw his thoughtful face, they ceased" singing, begins the passage in question, And, looking at each other, drew near him; While one who had upon his head a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 21-43
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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