The Beloved

Alternately titled: The Bride

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1865-1866
Model: Marie Ford (Sat for the Bride.)
Model: Ellen Smith (Sat for the bridesmaid in the left foreground.)
Model: Gabriel (The little negro boy who sat for DGR during the painting of the picture was eventually substituted for a mulatto girl.)


◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 130, 140-141, 154

◦ WMR, DGR Designer and Writer, 42-43

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 194-196

◦ Stephens, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 758-60.

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1, 104-106.

Scholarly Commentary


The picture is a classic example of DGR's adaptation of Titian and the school of Venice. DGR depicts the bride of theSong of Songs unveiling for her lover. The treatment is decorative in the extreme, as DGR himself noted, and the pose—with the bride facing the viewer—explicitly manifests the erotic potential of an art work.

The bridesmaids in the picture are, as it were, mirrors of the central figure. As such, the painting involves a representation of a central Rossettian preoccupation: the idea of a Venus Surrounded by Mirrors, Reflecting her in Different Views. In this case the ensemble is configured in an ethnic and racist vocabulary, with the Bride cast as a decidedly English Venus and her reflections as variously Near Eastern and Mediterranean. The boy attendant, originally conceived as a girl, becomes in this sexual translation the surrogate of DGR (and by extension, of anyone looking at, attending upon, the picture). DGR used this device of a boy attendant in other works as well, most notably in The Maids of Elfen-Mere and Sister Helen.

Production History

Originally planned in 1863 as a picture of Beatrice for Ellen Heaton, DGR took a commission from George Rae later that year for the eventual work. His letters to Heaton between July and December show that he began to conceive the picture as “the Bride from Solomon's Song” almost as soon as he had begun his studies for the work: “The present Beatrice must, I now find, be turned without remedy into Solomon's Bride, which however is a subject I myself delight in and have always had an eye to. I shall call it The King's Daughter, and you will find it will make quite as good a picture that way as the other, indeed far better for the style of head as it is. I believe you will be tempted to stick to it, but if not, I will paint you a Beatrice instead whenever I can find a really suitable model” (see his letters to Heaton of 2 and 4 July, Fredeman, Correspondence, 63. 68, 70 ).

The original oil painting was finished in 1866, but DGR undertook repainting in 1873, a project that including the replacing of the little mulatto girl with a little negro boy. No reproductions of the original oil painting exist, but the painting was photographed during the repainting process.

DGR had the painting photographed shortly after it was completed, and he painted over this photograph in watercolour. He sold this work to James Anderson Rose. In only one other case—a photograph of his wife which he also overpainted—did DGR undertake such a procedure, which interested and occupied many artists of the time. For a discussion see Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, 104n and DGR's letters to James Anderson Rose of 26 June and 4 July 1865 and 16 March 1867 (Fredeman,Correspondence, 65.100, 67.39).


The painting makes a free ekphrastic commentary on the Song of Songs . DGR had two texts specifically in mind, however, as can be seen from the picture's frame, where two verses from the bible are inscribed: the first from the Song of Songs 1:2, the second from Psalms 45:14.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s182.raw.xml