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Rossetti's 'For Our Lady of the Rocks": An Examination of Pre-Raphaelite Beliefs

Vilayath and Lance

Our Lady of the Rocks (1503-1506)
By Leonardo Da Vinci
For 'Our Lady of the Rocks' By Leonardo Da Vinci.
For 'Our Lady of the Rocks' By Leonardo Da Vinci.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
In the 19th century, a group of artists created a style and aesthetic movement that challenged the dominant notions of beauty. This group would come to be known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  This exhibit will discuss how the use of ekphrastic poetry, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s For ‘Our Lady of the Rocks’, illuminates Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite ideals; ideals that not only challenged established art, but would influence an entire new lens through which art could be viewed.  This essay will prove that Rossetti’s poem, based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting Our Lady of the Rocks, highlights Pre-Raphaelite beliefs that question beauty by exploring the paradigm of beauty and morbidity.  This will be accomplished through an analysis of ekphrastic poetry and how it enabled Rossetti to write about these attitudes that were emerging for the Brotherhood that would come some years later. The discussion will also include an in-depth analysis of the set of beliefs that the Pre-Raphaelites had towards art, and Rossetti’s sonnet will be compared with the imagery of Da Vinci’s painting. Thus, a clear example of how the Pre-Raphaelites viewed the world and how they accomplished making artistic choices based on these perceptions will be provided in the course of this exhibit.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (March, 1847)

Ekphrastic poetry and how it enabled Rossetti to express his impressions of  Da Vinci’s painting must be analyzed in order to introduce the Pre-Raphaelite notions that not only influenced aesthetic tastes in Victorian society, but also influenced contemporary society’s outlook on art. The ekphrastic spectator, as Benton states, reads poems , “which, in turn are reading paintings or sculptures; and maybe, doing so from the position of knowing the visual work before the poem; or maybe, of coming to it as a result of the poem; or maybe, of ‘reading’ the visual work through or alongside or against the poem’s ‘reading’ of it”.