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“Bocca Baciata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"Bocca Baciata" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Bocca Baciata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Bocca Baciata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts a beautiful Saracen princess who, despite having relationships on numerous occasions with eight separate lovers in the space of four years, successfully presents herself to the King of the Algarve as his virgin bride.

The title means “mouth that has been kissed.” The title refers to an Italian proverb, which Rossetti wrote on the back of the painting:

“‘The mouth that has been kissed does not lose its good fortune:
rather, it renews itself just as the moon does.”

The proverb comes from the conclusion of Alatiel’s story.

Rossetti was a translator of early Italian literature, and he knew the proverb from Boccaccio’s book called Decameron. The Decameron, also nicknamed “the Human Comedy,” is a collection of novellas by the 14th-century Italian Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375).

The Decameron contains 100 tales told by a group of ten young people in seclusion from the Black Death, which was afflicting the Florance.

In the story, Alatiel is the daughter of the sultan of Babylon. She was promised to the king of Algarve in return for his assistance with an invading army. The sultan sent Alatiel on a ship to meet her future husband.

Unfortunately, a storm sends the ship off course, and her crew abandons ship, leaving Alatiel and her ladies-in-waiting with no male protection. What follows are four years in Alatiel’s journey of survival and multiple lovers before she can return home.

Eventually, she returns to her father and tells him that she was shipwrecked and taken into a nunnery where she lied about who she was, fearing that she would be thrown out for not being a Christian. She claimed that she was there in seclusion until she found the opportunity to return home.

The sultan was pleased to have his daughter back and made arrangements to have her married to the king of Algarve. Alatiel convinces the king of her virginity, and they live happily ever after.

The painting, completed in 1859, represents a turning point in Rossetti’s artistic career. It depicts Fanny Cornforth, his main inspiration for sensuous figures.

This painting was the first of his pictures to focus on a single female figure. It established the style that was later to become a signature of his work. 

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.

Pre-Raphaelites

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.

Bocca Baciata

  • Title:                    Bocca Baciata
  • Artist:                  Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Date:                  1859
  • Medium:             oil on panel
  • Style:                   Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:        Height: 32.1 cm (12.6 in); Width: 27 cm (10.6 in)
  • Museum:            Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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

 

The Paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Quotes about the Pre-Raphaelite Movement

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“All great art is the work of the whole living creature, body and soul, and chiefly of the soul.”
– John Ruskin

~~~

“The greatest foe to art is luxury; art cannot live in its atmosphere.”
– William Morris

~~~

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

~~~

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
– William Morris

~~~

“Better by far, you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad.”
– Christina Rossetti

~~~

“Paint the leaves as they grow! If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world.”
– John Ruskin

~~~

“History has remembered the kings and warriors because they destroyed; art has remembered the people because they created.”
– William Morris

~~~

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
– John Ruskin

~~~

“If you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to hate sham art’.
– William Morris

~~~

“The past is not dead; it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.”
– William Morris

~~~

“The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint. Their wings are my protest in favor of the immortality of the soul.”
– Edward Burne-Jones

~~~

“The artist has done nothing till he has concealed himself — the art is imperfect which is visible-the feelings are but feebly touched if they permit us to reason on the methods of their excitement.”
– John Ruskin

~~~

“I love art, and I love history, but it is living art and living history that I love.”
– William Morris

~~~

“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.”
– William Morris

~~~

“When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me.”
– Christina Rossetti

~~~

“Love, which is quickly kindled in the gentle heart, seized this man for the fair form that was taken from me, the manner still hurts me. Love which absolves no beloved one from loving, seized me so strongly with his charm that, as thou sees, it does not leave me yet.”
– Dante Gabriel Rossetti

~~~

“He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;”
– Christina Rossetti

~~~

“The term ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ is in danger of becoming one of the most misused tags in art history.”
– Christopher Wood

~~~

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828 1882 Painter & Poet

~~~

“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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