Rossetti's religious paintings are mainly small, private works in watercolour or ink. They feature the Virgin Mary, whom he considered as the highest ideal of female virtue. He was also fascinated by the contrasting image of Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, representing sensuality. Though he began with the traditional figures from the Bible, his interpretations and imagery were always personal and deeply felt.
Rossetti also undertook one large painting, the altarpiece for the recently restored Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff. Unlike most of Rossetti's work, this was designed for public display.