In an Artist's Studio

In an Artist's Studio Study Guide

Although “In an Artist’s Studio” was published posthumously in 1896, the poem’s composition occurred on December 24, 1856, a date which has proved useful for scholarly interpretation. Since its publication, scholars have assumed that Rossetti’s poem was inspired by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose home studio included many paintings of his future wife Elizabeth Siddal. 1856 saw the height of Dante and Elizabeth’s passionate relationship, lending credence to the interpretation that Christina’s poem is a representation of Dante’s studio; this is further backed by a quote from the youngest Rossetti brother, William Michael, who said that “the reference is apparently to our brother’s studio, and to his constantly repeated heads of the lady whom he afterwards married, Elizabeth Siddal”.

Himself an artist and a poet, Dante was best known for his affiliation with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artistic elites who were inspired by the aesthetics, and values, that predominated just before the Italian Renaissance. The Pre-Raphaelites believed that artistic medieval representation and collective guilds were in fact a more viable, vibrant, and realistic model for artistic production and community as opposed to the idealist values that emerged after the Italian Renaissance.

In many ways, then, one can read “In an Artist’s Studio” as Christina Rossetti’s representation of the conflict she experienced as a woman poet, who was herself the object of another famous artist's representations. Although the woman represented in Dante’s portraits might more immediately be read as Siddal, there is little doubt that Christina understood what it meant to be the muse of a brother whose art was so influenced by complicated ideological affiliations with medieval art and naturalism.