'The Beloved', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A young woman dominates the centre of this group scene

Oil on canvas, dated 1865-6, 82.5 x 76.2cm, Tate. Purchased with assistance through the National Art Collections Fund from Sir Arthur Du Cros Bt and Sir Otto Beit 1916

The painting depicts the Bride from the Song of Solomon, the Old Testament book in which religious and erotic imagery are fused. Rossetti shows the bridesmaids lifting her veil, revealing her beauty for the first time to her bridegroom the King - and to us, the viewers of the painting.

On the frame are words spoken by the Bride and part of Psalm 45, describing the Bride's gorgeous dress, represented in the painting by a Japanese kimono:

My Beloved is mine and I am his. (Song of Solomon, 2:16). Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. (Solomon 1:2). She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee (Psalms 45:14)

The quotation might imply that the 'Beloved' is not the woman shown, but the male figure before whom she appears. Such an idea is one of the constant features of Rossetti's compositions of this period. Many share the sense of direct address from the depicted figure to the viewer.

The figures and accessories reflect diverse ethnic and cultural origins. The presence of multiple figures is unusual for Rossetti's work of this period. Most concentrated on a single, female, figure.