Before the Battle

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1858


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 100

◦ Megroz, DGR: Painter Poet of Heaven and Earth, 232

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 60 (no. 106).

Scholarly Commentary

Production History

Despite the date on the picture (1858), WMR says that it was executed in 1857 when DGR and Elizabeth Siddal were staying together at Matlock. If this is the case, it was on hand for DGR to offer to Charles Eliot Norton in mid-1858 when the latter asked about purchasing a picture. DGR wrote back to Norton offering this watercolour: “The drawing which I have for you is called ‘Before the Battle,’ & represents a castle full of ladies who have been embroidering banners which are now being fastened to the spears by the Lady of the castle. There are a good many figures & half figures large & small in it; and I hope that in colour it is one of the best things I have done. I do not send it you at the same time with this letter (though it is quite finished), partly because, with your permission, I should like to keep it a little to show; & partly also that I do not quite like selling you such a decided ‘pig in a poke’ as this would be if I packed it off before knowing whether the subject of it pleased your fancy beforehand. These chivalric Froissartian themes are quite a passion of mine, but whether of yours also I do not know. If you decidedly felt unkindly towards it, I dare say I might be able, by the time I got your answer, to offer you instead a finished drawing of a different class of subject. Meanwhile (to be thoroughly impudent, all things considered), may I beg, your answer at once, that I may know how to act in the matter, and (worst of all, to be thoroughly sordid), may I beg, without mincing, that you will consider this drawing or another as ready to be delivered at once on your decision, and that you will let me have with your answer to this letter, by return of post if possible, the amount of the commission (50 guineas if I am not mistaken); for, to tell you the truth, my Oxford labours of love have resulted in leaving me a little aground. As soon as I hear that you wish your drawing forwarded, you shall have it.” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 58. 16 ). Although Norton did in fact buy the picture, DGR did not send it until 1862, possibly because of Ruskin's dim view of its quality. When Norton received it, Ruskin wrote him on 19 January 1862 to say he approved of the work now that DGR had modified it (see Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, I. 60 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s106.raw.xml