Dante Gabriel Rossetti

by Alicia Craig Faxon Abbeville$85.00. In 1848 that year of widespread revolution, a group of young painters in England christened themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and issued a manifesto of artistic principles. The Pre-Raphaelite manifesto was the first of its kind. It was brief and reasonably lucid, and if the Pre-Raphaelites had foreseen the turgid length of subsequent artistic manifestos, they might have let their painting speak for itself. Rossetti was one of this band of rebels against the domination of the Royal Academy. (Allegedly he declared, years later, “that if the Royal Academy were to elect him a member, he would immediately put the matter into the hands of his solicitor.”) Rossetti was not the most successful of the group financially, nor was he knighted, like his fellows Millais and Burne-Jones, but he remains the most interesting of the brotherhood, for he was a poet and translator as well as a painter. He was also a wit, once describing a friend’s new furniture as “tables and chairs like incubi and succubi.” Dr. Faxon, as an art historian, has concentrated on the intellectual themes underlying Rossetti’s paintings, his brilliant color technique, his use of symbols, and the development of his style from medieval angularity to Titianesque rotundity. This is all very fine and useful for appreciating the excellent plates in her excellent book, but one cannot help wishing for more quotation from her highly quotable subject.