The Nativity

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1855 June


◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 33-34 (no. 71).

◦ Troxell, Three Rossettis, 28-29.

Scholarly Commentary

Production History

“This drawing is in many respects likeable—but in many more Wrong”: thus Ruskin began his long critical accounting to DGR of the inadequacies of the picture he had commissioned in June 1855. Ruskin repeated certain of his strictures in a letter dated October, and asked DGR to fix what he disliked about the picture “or you will make me ill again” (see Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 34n.. and Troxell, Three Rossettis, 28-29, where Ruskin's letter is printed in full). When DGR wrote to his mother on 1 July about Ruskin's reaction, his tone was remarkably cool given the astonishing character of Ruskin's remarks: “While Ruskin was at the seaside I painted and sent him a water colour of The Nativity, done in a week, price 15 guineas. I thought and think it one of my best, but R. disappointed me by not thinking it up to my usual mark. I shall do him another instead, & sell that to someone else” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 55. 33 ). Ruskin kept the picture but only after extorting the changes he wanted.


Surtees usefully compares the picture with the central panel of The Seed of David watercolour in the Tate.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s71.raw.xml