'St Cecilia', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A women playing a musical instrument

Illustration from 'Poems by Alfred Tennyson, Wood engraving by Dalziel brothers after Rossetti's design, published 1857, 9.2 x 7.8cm, Stephen Calloway

Rossetti took as his starting point lines from the poem 'The Palace of Art':

Or in a clear-wall'd city on the sea,
Near gilded organ-pipes, her hair
Wound with white roses, slept St. Cecily;
An angel look'd at her.

From these he created an enigmatic medieval fantasy world. In the distance is an intricate vision of a medieval city, harbour and wall mentioned in the poem. These contrast with the figure of a soldier improbably munching on an apple in the foreground.

In the drawing (not shown here) the angel looks at St Cecilia, as in the poem, but the book illustration shows him kissing her, the sensuality emphasized by the long, flowing hair of both figures.