In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Biographies
  • Modern Collections
  • Art Catalogues
  • Primary Texts
  • Correspondence and Collected Papers
  • The Rossetti Family
  • Music and Popular Culture

Victorian Literature Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Sophia Andres
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0126


Dante Gabriel Rossetti—major founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, leader of the Aesthetic movement, a key influential figure on Victorian poetry and art—is widely recognized as the Victorian poet-painter genius who defied Victorian conventions in his life and work. Rossetti’s first book, The Early Italian Poets (1861), which includes Dante’s Vita Nuova, introduced medieval Italian poetry to English audiences; a decade later in 1874 his Dante and His Circle was primarily a revision of his early book concentrating on Dante. Beginning with watercolors, inspired by medieval literary works and paintings on religious subjects, Rossetti switched in the second phase of his career to sensuous Venetian-style oil paintings of voluptuous femme fatales distinguished by their long necks, luxuriant flowing hair, and rosebud mouths. Throughout his career, Rossetti often interwove literature and art by either seeking the inspiration of his sensuous women in literature or by composing sonnets as companion pieces to the paintings. In this respect, neither the verbal (often the spiritual or psychological) nor the visual or physical, may be interpreted in isolation; the picture poem must be experienced in its totality. Unlike William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, Rossetti never exhibited, but he worked on private commissions. Dante Gabriel Rossetti has attracted innumerable Victorian, modern, and postmodern works on his poetry and painting, ranging from interpretive, biographical, psychoanalytical to sociopolitical and cultural studies, to name but a few. It is just about impossible to subsume all these works under categories that this iconoclastic genius (who resisted any limitations imposed by his critics) would possibly approve. Scholars interested in Rossetti’s poetry and prose may have access to various Victorian editions and modern collections. Comprehensive and authoritative, as well as an invaluable resource for beginning and advanced scholars, the Rossetti Archive includes his poetry, prose, correspondence, and strikingly beautiful reproductions of his drawings, watercolors, illustrations, and paintings. Rossetti’s eccentric lifestyle has attracted numerous biographies. Gender, race, class, and politics in Rossetti’s works, poetical and painterly, are also subjects explored by postmodern scholars. Exhibits and catalogues of Rossetti’s paintings abound, ranging from those devoted to specific time periods or subjects in Rossetti’s art—such as literary topics, his double works of art, portraiture, aesthetic representations of beauty—to the connections of his art with other Pre-Raphaelites. The reciprocal influence on other contemporary poets and artists, in particular Pre-Raphaelite painters, the impact of his art on aesthetes, symbolists, and modern artists are also subjects of interpretive criticism and exhibits. Though Rossetti did not compose music, his poetry has inspired several popular musical compositions. His notorious lifestyle, on the other hand, has been the subject of works of fiction, television, theater and film, most of which have taken liberties with biographical information in attempts to make it even more sensational to postmodern audiences.


Fredeman 1965 remains the standard bibliography for students and scholars researching Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites. Though published in the 1960s, it is hardly an obsolete resource. Fennell 1982 is also an important source for locating Rossetti scholarship, as it contains informative annotations, although some scholars have noted it lacks sufficient citations of Rossetti’s visual works. Rossetti Archive (cited under Modern Collections) contains the most recent bibliography on Rossetti, though it is not annotated or categorized and is somewhat overwhelming. Tobin 2002 documents some 2,400 periodical reviews of Pre-Raphaelite art and literature and has created a handy companion website that provides updates to the bibliography (the website has not been updated since 2008, however). Sadly, Tobin has not reprinted all of the contemporary reviews of Rossetti’s art and poetry, so it is not an exhaustive bibliography. Ghose 1977 (first published in 1929) also collects and documents excerpts from contemporary reviews of Rossetti’s works and is still useful, even though it is outdated and sometimes lacking sufficient commentary and background information.

  • Fennell, Francis L. Dante Gabriel Rossetti: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1982.

    Containing almost 1,200 annotations, Fennell’s bibliography was a welcome update to Fredeman, and has the added benefit of being exclusively devoted to Rossetti. While the Rossetti Archive’s bibliography is more up-to-date, this remains the only full-scale bibliography of Rossetti with detailed annotations. Fennell’s selections focus primarily on Rossetti’s poetry without any discussions of his visual art.

  • Fredeman, William E. Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674332348

    At the time of its publication, this was a clarion call for more serious scholarship on the Pre-Raphaelites. This “bibliocritical study” is valuable not only for its extensive citations but also for the “Survey of Scholarship” essay, which provides frank assessments of both primary and secondary sources on Rossetti. Fredeman’s annotations are most useful, not only for directing readers toward good research but also for steering them away from sources that lack scholarly merit.

  • Ghose, Sudhindra N. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Contemporary Criticism. Geneva, Switzerland: Norwood Editions, 1977.

    Though it occasionally errs in conflating Rossetti’s artistic principles with the rest of the Pre-Raphaelites, Ghose’s book (first published in 1929) remains a standard source for contemporary critical reviews of Rossetti’s works. As Fredeman has noted, it is more a collection of critical works than merely a bibliography. Reviews are listed in chronological order and cover the entirety of Rossetti’s career.

  • Tobin, Thomas J. Pre-Raphaelitism in the Nineteenth-Century Press: A Bibliography. Victoria, British Columbia: University of Victoria, 2002.

    This book and its corresponding website online contain bibliographic entries of some 2,400 periodical articles and reviews of the Pre-Raphaelites in the 19th century, many from journals not previously recorded in Fredeman 1965. The website also contains addenda with articles Tobin has discovered since 2002.

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