'Dante's Dream', Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1871

Man bent over kissing a sleeping woman

Oil on canvas, 216 x 312.4cm. Accession number WAG3091

Rossetti | had a life-long interest in the Italian poet Dante. This painting shows an episode from the 'Vita Nuova'. In it Dante dreams that he is led by Love to the death-bed of Beatrice Portinari, the object of his unrequited passion.

This is Rossetti's largest ever painting. In it he creates a visionary world through soft, rich colours and complex symbols. The attendants wear green for hope, while the spring blossoms signify purity. The red doves indicate the presence of love and the poppies symbolise the sleep of dreams and death.

The model for Beatrice was Jane Morris, with whom Rossetti had a long-term affair.

A poem inspired by this painting!

Lisa Jones entered our 'Get Inspired...at the Walker' | poetry competition and wrote this poem inspired by 'Dante's Dream'.

Dante's Dream

Suspended in air,
skin, reptile cold to the touch.
Heat from a lover's gaze
cannot warm bones or heal wounds.


Stark eyes of poppies
face to face
black eye to black eye


their glorious laudanum
deadening pain and wonder.


Many pages have been buried
the aging paper lying heavy with love.

By Lisa Jones