For a Venetian Pastoral, by Giorgione (in the Louvre)

Alternately titled: Sonnets for Pictures 4. A Venetian Pastoral, by Giorgione; in the Louvre

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849 October
Rhyme: abbaaccadefdef
Meter: iambic
Genre: sonnet
Sources of the Work:
Pictorial Object: Le Concert champêtre
Artist: Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) (1488/89-1576)
Location: Louvre
Other Information: The painting sometimes goes by the titleFête Champêtre (orPastorale). The attribution to Giorgione, though still thought possible by some scholars, is now largely rejected.


◦ Barolsky, Walter Pater's Renaissance,130-133

◦ Gregory, The Life and Works of DGR II. 109

◦ Hardinge, “Louvre Sonnets of DGR”,” (1891), 433-443

◦ Ireland, “DGR's Versions of Giorgione,” (1979), 303-315

◦ Landow, “Rossetti's Typological Structures,” (1978), 257-258

◦ Riede, DGR and the Limits of Victorian Vision,217

◦ Stein, Ritual of Interpretation., 19-23

◦ Wagner, A Moment's Monument 147-148)


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Poems First Edition text.

Scholarly Commentary


When DGR saw the picture in the Louvre he wrote to his brother that it was “so intensely fine that I condescended to sit down before it and write a sonnet. You have heard me rave about the engraving before, and I fancy have seen it yourself. There is a woman, naked, at one side, who is dipping a glass vessel into a well; and in the centre two men and another naked woman, who seem to have paused for a moment in playing on the musical instruments” ( Fredeman, Correspondence 49. 18 , letter of 8 October 1849).

The sonnet is very Keatsian in its appreciation of art, or aesthetic space, as emblematic of an “immortality” unavailable to flesh and blood humans. As in the “Ode on A Grecian Urn,” here DGR suggests that the painting's figures, in particular the woman dipping the water pitcher, seem half-conscious of their aesthetic condition. To the degree that the woman is conscious, to that extent she recalls “The Blessed Damozel”, whose emparadised state is transacted by a melancholy that arises because her lover is not with her. In this sonnet the woman's purely imaginative status refines the textual melancholy to an exquisite degree. The injunction at lines 12-13 is made as if to suggest that the reader/viewer must not break the spell of her aesthesis, as if to suggest that the spell of art is itself as fragile as any living being, and might be broken.

Textual History: Composition

DGR wrote the sonnet in front of the picture early in October 1849, during his stay in Paris. Two manuscripts survive: the fair copy in DGR's letter to his brother of 8 October 1849 (the earliest copy), and the corrected copy gathered in the Fitzwilliam Museum's bound volume of DGR manuscripts relating (mostly) “The House of Life” sonnets. The latter show the revisions DGR made for publication in the 1870 Poems.

A copy made by WMR sometime in the early twentieth-century exhibits both the version published in 1850 and the later version published in 1870.

Textual History: Revision

The major revisions were made before the poem was first set in type (in the Penkill Proofs, August 1869), but further changes came as the text went through the proof process of 1869-70 (which eventuated in the publication of the 1870 Poems). The version printed in the Germ no. 4 (1850) is very close to the initial composition, though it does show variations at several points. Kenneth Ireland sees the 1850 version as far truer to the original painting than the 1870 text.

Printing History

First published in the Germ no. 4 (30 April 1850). DGR reprinted the poem in the Penkill Proofs, where its text is already much closer to the received version than to the Germ text. The proof process of 1869-1870, toward the publicaton of the 1870 Poems, resulted in the work as received.


The painting was once firmly attributed to Giorgione, and indeed Berenson preserves the attribution. But scholars now generally assign the work to Titian. It is often known by the title Pastorale, and is sometimes called Fête Champêtre. Seen as Titian's work it is dated early sixteenth-century, shortly after the death of Giorgione. The work is read as Titian's act of homage to his great predecessor. Whatever the personal attribution, however, the painting is an important instance of what Pater famously labelled “The School of Giorgione”, which introduced a powerfully poetic element into pictorial space.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 40-1849.raw.xml