Dante's Dream

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1871

WAG 3091

About this object

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 (1839 - 1914), with whom Rossetti had a long-term affair.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti (British: English, born:1828-05-12, died:1882-04-09)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Oil; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 216 cm x 312.4 cm; frame: 263 cm x 363.2 cm x 12 cm
  • Physical description
    Set in a bed chamber, to the far left and far right two females hold a pall full of flowers over a bed. Upon the bed lies a female, the dead Beatrice. The male figure, Dante, is dressed in a long blue robe and blue head-dress. He is being lead by the hand by a winged figure 'Love' (the pilgrim Love of the 'Vita Nuova') who walks towards Beatrice. 'Love' is dressed in a crimson robe and has the wings of an angel. He is holding a cupid's arrow and a bunch of blossom which point at Dante. 'Love' is bending over Beatrice, kissing her on her cheek. Scattered on the floor are poppies.
  • Related people
    William Graham (Previous owner) ; Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Artist/maker, previous owner) ; Leonard Rowe Valpy (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 3091
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery from the LIverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1881
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 08
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    Owned from: 1878
    How acquired: Returned to artist
    Owned until: 1881
    Disposal method: Sold to Walker Art Gallery at Liverpool Autumn Exhibition
  • Leonard Rowe Valpy

    Owned from: 1873
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1878
    Disposal method: Returned to the artist in an exchange agreement; retouched and sold to Walker Art Gallery
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    Owned from: 1873
    How acquired: Exchange agreement
    Owned until: 1873
    Disposal method: Sold to Leonard R Valpy
  • William Graham

    Owned from: 1871
    How acquired: Commissioned
    Owned until: 1873
    Disposal method: Returned to the artist in an exchange agreement


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: [left]SOMNIUM DANTIS IN EXTREMA BEATRICIS HORA / JUNII DIE. 9 ANNO 1290 [right] Allor diceva Amor: "Più non ti celo; / Vieni a veder nostra donna che giace" / L'immaginar fallace. / / Mi condusse a veder mia donna morta; / E quando l'avea scorta, / Vedea che donne la covrian d'un velo; // Ed avea seco umiltà si verace, /Che parea che dicesse: Io sono in pace. /Dante: La Vita Nuova
    Inscription method: Inscribed
    Inscription note: On two scrolls on frame
    Inscription location: Frame
  • Inscription text: D. G. Rossetti
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location:
Object view = Fine Art
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