Rossetti's Goddess

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

English poet and painter, was one of the founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the medieval revival. His art, infused of sensuality and dreamy languor, was deeply influenced by the romantic idyll developed between he and his muse Jane Morris (wife of his artist friend William Morris).

Proserpine, of all Rossetti's paintings of Jane Morris, most strongly represents his infatuation. Through his poetic vision he depicted an inescapable allusion to his desire to seduce Jane away from her despiriting marriage.

Jane Morris (1839-1914)

Model and muse, embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. Unhappily married to William Morris (English textile designer, poet, novelist), shared with Dante Gabriel Rossetti a deep emotional relationship. Her unconventional, ‘aesthetic’ type of beauty, characterised by a willowy neck, thick waves of raven hair, well-defined brows, large, expressive eyes, sensuous lips, and long fingers, inspired him to create some of his best paintings.


Empress of underworld.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Proserpine daughter of Ceres and Jupiter, was carried off to the Underworld (Hades) by Pluto, who married her despite her love for Adonis. When Ceres begged Jupiter to return her daughter to Earth, he agreed, on condition that Proserpine had not eaten any fruits in Hades. As Proserpine had eaten six pomegrenate seeds, it was decreed that she should remain in the underworld for six months of the year (Fall, Winter) and be allowed on Earth for the other six (Spring, Summer).

Captive Goddess

As Proserpine had been imprisoned in Pluto's underground realm for tasting the forbidden pomegranate, Jane, trapped by the convention of his marriage, was also tasting another variety of forbidden fruit loving Rossetti.

Jane Morris life bore similarities to that of the captive goddess, and the painting could be seen as much a portrait of her as a representation of Proserpine.

Incense Burner

The incense-burner stands in the painting beside Proserpine as the attribute of a goddess.

Collection review by Eugenia Ragas