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“The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Day Dream by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was initially intended to be named Monna Primavera and depicts his lover and muse Jane Morris posed in a seated position on the bough of a sycamore tree.

She holds a small stem of honeysuckle in her hand, a token of love in the Victorian era. It symbolized the secret affair Rossetti was immersed in with Jane Morris at the time. She was the model for several of Rossetti’s well-known paintings.

This painting is one of Rossetti’s last and one of his few full-length depictions during this time of his career. The painting is signed “D. Rossetti 1880” on the lower right.

The scene is a representation of a woman in a green silk dress, shaded by the canopy of the sycamore tree’s leaves. All around her, the tree branches are depicted as if they want to embrace her.

Rossetti portrayed her clad all in green, her dress is a loose silk robe, flowing in folds and blending in with the tree’s leaves.

She is immersed in her daydreams, turning her gaze towards something unseen or perceived by her.

Rossetti made several revisions to the painting to meet his exacting expectations, including copying the feet of another woman to the picture.

The depiction of the woman in her shelter surrounded by the branches adds to the mystery of the painting, symbolizing the secrecy of their affair. 

"The Day Dream" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Chalk sketch of “The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti- Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

Rossetti completed a chalk sketch of Morris a few years earlier in 1878. Initially, the painting was to be called Monna Primavera, or Vanna Primavera, inspired by La Vita Nuova, a narrative that captivated Rossetti.

Rossetti penned sonnets to accompany several of his paintings. His last poem in his series entitled “Sonnets for Pictures” is associated with this painting. 

Within the branching shade of Reverie
Dreams even may spring till autumn; yet none be
Like woman’s budding day-dream spirit-fann’d.
Lo! tow’rd deep skies, not deeper than her look,
She dreams; till now on her forgotten book
Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.

Jane Morris

Jane Morris (1839 – 1914) was an English embroiderer in the Arts & Crafts Movement and artists’ model who embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty.

She was a model and muse to her husband William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Jane married William Morris in 1859. In 1871, William Morris and Rossetti took out a joint tenancy on the rural retreat of Kelmscott Manor. William Morris went to Iceland, leaving his wife and Rossetti to furnish the house and spend the summer there.

Jane Morris had become closely attached to Rossetti and became a favorite muse of his. Their romantic relationship had started in 1865 and lasted, on differing levels, until he died in 1882.

They shared a deep emotional connection, and she inspired Rossetti to write poetry and create some of his best paintings. 

"The Day Dream" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Jane Morris (née Jane Burden; 1839–1914), photographed in 1865, posed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

William Morris

William Morris (1834 – 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. 

Visits to Iceland greatly influenced him, and he produced a series of English-language translations of Icelandic Sagas. 

Morris is recognized as one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain. He was best known in his lifetime as a poet, although he posthumously became better known for his designs. 

La Vita Nuova

“The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was initially called Monna Primavera, or Vanna Primavera, inspired by La Vita Nuova, a narrative that captivated Rossetti.

La Vita Nuova (Italian for “The New Life”) is a text by Dante Alighieri published in 1294. It is an expression of the medieval courtly love in a combination of both prose and verse.

The reader is invited into the very emotional turmoil and lyrical struggle of the mind in its quest for Love.

Dante wanted to collect and publish the lyrics dealing with his love for Beatrice. The result is a landmark in the development of emotional autobiography in medieval literature.

Dante’s audience was interested in the emotions of courtly love and how they develop. Dante wanted to explore and understand how love can bring the soul closer to God.

In “I Felt My Heart Awaken,” Dante recounts a meeting with Love, who asks the poet to do his best to honor her. The first three lines of the poem states:

“I felt awoken in my heart
a loving spirit that was sleeping;
and then I saw Love coming from far away.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882) was a British poet, illustrator, painter, and translator, who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.

Sensuality and its medieval revivalism characterize Rossetti’s art. Rossetti’s personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses.


The Pre-Raphaelites was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848.

The group intended to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by the artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite.”

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colors, and complex compositions of Pre-Raphaelite Italian art.

The Pre-Raphaelites focused on painting subjects from modern life, and literature often used historical costumes for accuracy. They painted directly from nature itself, as accurately as possible, and with intense attention to detail.

The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their art, and published a periodical to promote their ideas.

A later, medieval influence extended the movement’s power into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse.

The Day Dream – Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Title:                   The Day Dream
  • Artist:                  Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Date:                   1880
  • Medium:             oil on canvas
  • Style:                   Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:        Height: 32.1 cm (12.6 in); Width: 27 cm (10.6 in)
  • Museum:            Victoria and Albert Museum

The Day Dream – Ashmolean Museum

  • Title:                   The Day Dream
  • Artist:                  Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Date:                  1872 and 1878
  • Medium:             Pastel and charcoal
  • Style:                   Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:        Height: 104.5 cm (41.1 in); Width: 76.5 cm (30.1 in)
  • Museum:            Ashmolean Museum

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Rossetti “Dream Land”

“The Day-Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A Virtual Tour of Pre-Raphaelite Artists

John Everett Millais

William Holman Hunt

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John William Waterhouse

Marie Spartali Stillman

Ford Madox Brown

Henry Holiday

Edward Burne-Jones

Frederick Sandys

Frank Dicksee

John Collier

William Dyce

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti


“Art is not a study of positive reality; it is the seeking for ideal truth.”
– John Ruskin


Photo Credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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