'The Blessed Damozel' 1875-9
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828– 1882)
Oil on canvas 111 x 82.7cm, Plus predella 36.5 x 82.8cm
Accession Number LL3148
This painting illustrates a poem written by Rossetti in about 1850. It tells the story of a damsel (a young woman or maiden) who died young and went to heaven. There she pined for her earthbound lover, waiting for him to die so they could be together again.
She is shown as she is described in the poem’s first stanza, leaning on the gold bar of heaven: ‘She had three lilies in her hand, and the stars in her hair were seven.’
Many of Rossetti’s paintings from this period feature scenes of unhappy or unconsummated love. There is a larger version of this picture in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, USA. Both use the format of a Renaissance altarpiece with the main scene in a large panel and a smaller predella panel below for the secondary figure.
An extended study of 'The Blessed Damozel' is also available online as part of our Artwork of the Month series.