Weinberg, “’Looking Backward’
1997), pages 57-58
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Ballads and Sonnets text.
This sonnet is the textual focus point for DGR's deep
admiration for Botticelli's work. Its visual counterparts are various
paintings, especially La Pia de' Tolomei, La
Ghirlandata, and especially La Donna Della Finestra. All
of these pictures reflect, and reflect upon, the Botticelli picture that
DGR bought in 1867 at Christie's for twenty pounds, the Portrait of Smerelda Bandinelli (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). It is now generally ascribed to the school of Botticelli and not to the master himself.
This sonnet references the famous Primavera. As the first and last lines indicate, the poem is DGR's version of the theme so splendidly rendered in Swinburne's “A Vision of Spring in Winter”. Viewing this picture from his wintry present, DGR
redoubles the ambiguities in the painting's masque, as the word “here” (line 13) indicates. The central “Lady” (line 10), Venus, epitomizes these ambiguities, as all of
DGR's works indicate. The sonnet should be compared with the other late sonnets and their accompanying pictures: Fiammetta, A Sea-Spell, Proserpina and Astarte Syriaca.
The sonnet was written in 1880. The only known manuscript is the undated corrected copy in the Library of Congress.
First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets, collected thereafter.
DGR's note to the sonnet: “The same lady, here
surrounded by the masque of Spring, is evidently the subject of a
portrait by Botticelli formerly in the Portales collection in Paris.
The portrait is inscribed ‘Smeralda Bandinelli’.”
WMR's note to the poem adds that “My brother bought the portrait
in question. He afterwards sold it to Mr. Constantine Ionides, from
whom it passed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Leading critics will
now have it that the portrait is not the work of Botticelli himself,
of someone for whom they have invented the name ‘Amico di