Laura Gascoigne

Rossetti’s muse was a better painter than he was: The Rossettis, at Tate Britain, reviewed

Elizabeth Siddal's drawings easily hold their own against Dante Gabriel Rossetti's

Portrait of Alexa Wilding: ‘Monna Vanna’, 1866, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. © Tate

‘A queer fellow’ is how John Everett Millais described Dante Gabriel Rossetti after his death, ‘so dogmatic and so irritable when opposed.’ What’s queer in England is quite normal in Italy, where heated arguments are described as ‘discussioni’, but history has tended to forget that Rossetti was Italian. His fellow Pre-Raphaelites, however, were very conscious of his foreignness, though Holman Hunt found the ‘maccaroni’ served at the Rossetti family table – where you were as likely to meet Giuseppe Mazzini as Niccolo Paganini – ‘delicious’.

Rather than professional models the Pre-Raphaelites wanted girls with a mass of hair, preferably red

Gabriel (he...

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