ArtWay

The human being, creature of eyes, needs the image. Leonardo da Vinci

Dante G. Rossetti & Dante G. Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Passover in the Holy Family

Family

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Here meet together the prefiguring day
And day prefigured. ‘Eating, thou shalt stand,
Feet shod, loins girt, thy road-staff in thine hand,
With blood-stained door and lintel,’ — did God say
By Moses’ mouth in ages passed away.
And now, where this poor household doth comprise
At Paschal-Feast two kindred families, —
Lo! the slain lamb confronts the Lamb to slay.

The pyre is piled. What agony’s crown attained,
What shadow of death the Boy’s fair brow subdues
Who holds that blood wherewith the porch is stained
By Zachary the priest? John binds the shoes
He deemed himself not worthy to unloose;
And Mary culls the bitter herbs ordained.

*******

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Passover in the Holy Family, 1855-56. Unfinished watercolor on paper, 40.6 × 43.2 cm. Tate Britain, London.

Under the commission of John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelite poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti set to work on a watercolor in 1855 depicting the child Jesus with his family (mom, uncle, cousin) making preparations for their celebration of Passover. Before Rossetti could paint in Joseph with the lamb and Elisabeth lighting the pyre, however, and insert further detail, Ruskin intercepted the work, worrying that Rossetti’s already-numerous revisions, if continued, would corrupt it. “I had to carry the drawing off,” Ruskin said, “finished or unfinished. You see, Rossetti has cut the head of Christ out and put in a fresh one. He put it in and scraped it out so many times, that I feared he would end by scraping the whole thing clean away—so I carried it off.”

As part of his work process for The Passover in the Holy Family, Rossetti wrote a sonnet on the subject, which helped him flesh out the concept. He returned to the poem in 1869 for minor revision and had it published in his volume Poems the following year.

Both painting and poem are chock-full of typology. Every action, every prop, has a meaning that anticipates Jesus’s forthcoming ministry, especially his sacrificial death. The fact that the first day of the Jewish festival of Passover falls on Good Friday this year makes Rossetti’s work all the more ripe for reflection. (text by Victoria Emily Jones)


More:

- June 2019: C.S. Lewis and Wayne Adams
- May 2019: Malcolm Guite & Andrea Mantegna: Ascension
- May 2019: Denise Levertov & Ernst Barlach
- October 2018: Sándor Reményik & Ildikó Mecséri
- August 2018: Abigail Carroll & Caravaggio
- May 2018: Bohuslav Reynek: Poet and Visual Artist
- March 2018: George MacDonald & James Ensor
- January 2018: Wendell Berry & Annukka Laine
- November 2017: Mary Oliver & Pauline Baynes
- September 2017: Ellyn Maybe & Pablo Picasso
- August 2017: Ellyn Maybe & Pablo Picasso
- April 2017: Denise Levertov & Diego Velazquez
- April 2017: Denise Levertov & Diego Velazquez
- February 2017: David L. Hatton & David L. Hatton
- November 2016: Dennis ODriscoll & David Robinson
- June 2016: Luci Shaw & Marietha Smit
- April 2016: Robert Browning & Pauline Baynes
- March 2016: Wendell Berry & Carol Aust
- December 2015: Sufjan Stevens & Geertgen tot Sint Jans
- September 2015: Thomas Merton & Andre Racz
- June 2015: Frances Bellerby & Jeltje Hoogenkamp
- March 2015: Christine Perrin & Ted Prescott
- January 2015: Jan Krist & Gor Chahal
- December 2014: Sufjan Stevens & Geertgen tot Sint Jans
- November 2014: David L. Hatton & David L. Hatton
- July 2014: Chris Lorensson & Dylan Clements
- June 2014: Jonathan Evens & Henry Shelton
- April 2014: Gerlind Krause & Worku Goshu
- April 2014: Christine Perrin & Michelangelo
- February 2014: David Hatton & Angelo da Fonseca
- January 2014: James Weldon Johnson & Aaron Douglas
- January 2014: Hannah Main-van der Kamp & Liviu Mocan
- December 2013: Christine Perrin & Fra Angelico
- December 2013: Luci Shaw & Botticelli
- December 2013: Luci Shaw & Henry Ossawa Tanner
- November 2013: Christine Perrin & Luca Signorelli
- October 2013: Hannah Main-van der Kamp & Tanja Butler
- October 2013: James Weldon Johnson & Aaron Douglas
- October 2013: Marilyn Chandler McEntyre & Johannes Vermeer
- September 2013: The Renewal of Ekphrasis by John Skillen