The preparatory drawing for his oil painting Pia de Tolomei, produced late on in his career in 1868, depicts one of the artists favourite models, Alexa Wilding, a dressmaker he discovered when he saw her walking on the Strand in London and was captivated by her flowing auburn hair.
But by the time Rossetti came to complete the final work in 1881 he had replaced Wilding with Jane Morris, the wife of textile designer William Morris, with whom the pre-Raphaelite artist had fallen passionately in love.
Rossettis Pia de Tolomei. Photograph: Cambridge University handot The drawing was found in an Edinburgh bookshop in 1956 by Sir Ivor Batchelor, professor of psychiatry at Dundee University, and his wife Honor, who spent decades collecting fine and decorative arts. It is part of an exceptional collection from the couples bequest, through the Art Fund, which is to go on display at the Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge.
Rossetti worked on La Pia from 1868 to 1881. The final painting is now in the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas.
The drawing shows Wilding sitting with her head tilted slightly back. She had, according to a description by Rossettis assistant, a lovely face, beautifully moulded in every feature, full of quiescent, soft mystical repose.
Rossetti declared she had the type of face he had been seeking for so long. He painted her many times, paying her a retainer to model for him alone, and she posed for some of his finest late works, including The Bower Meadow (1872) and The Blessed Damozel (1875-78).
It shows that at this time Rossetti had come close to the final composition for the painting, which would eventually show Jane Morris, with her head head hanging forward in a brooding, melancholy pose.
The drawing is still in its original frame, and has a label on the back from Rossetti warning those that might want to de-frame the work of the fragile nature of the pastel.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Gallery technicians install Ricorditi di me che son la Pia (from Dantes Purgatorio) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA Sir Ivor, who died in 2005 aged 88, wrote of the couples find: It was in the tiny secondhand bookshop in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh in the years immediately after World War II that I found drawings and prints which were within our minuscule budget and which were often of real quality.
It was a red letter dayin 1956 when off the floor in Aitkens shop, with a windfall of royalties from a book, we bought for £75 Rossettis very fine and very large drawing for La Pia.
The subject is inspired by Dantes Purgatorio. The woman, La Pia, is one of the souls that Dante encounters on his journey through purgatory.
Highlights from the collection will be on display for the first time, including drawings by Rossetti, John Ruskin, William Orpen, Walter Sickert and Gwen John, as well as stoneware, glass, bronze and pottery pieces.
Collecting and Giving: Highlights from the Sir Ivor and Lady Batchelor Bequest runs from 4 December 2018 until 3 March 2019
Etched in chalk, she is a picture of pre-Raphaelite beauty. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was determined that she should cared for properly. On the back of the sketch, called Ricorditi Di Me, Che Son La Pia, which he completed in 1868, he left a typewritten note.
It read: This drawing not being set it will require the greatest care if ever removed from its frame. This was followed by Rossettis address. The drawing was bought for £75 by the collector Sir Ivor Batchelor from Robert Aitken, an Edinburgh bookseller, in 1956 on what he later described as a red-letter day.
The sketch is of Alexa Wilding, whom Rossetti had met in the street. His better-known muse, Jane Morris, wife of the arts and crafts designer William…
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