Sixty-six

Study for the Blessed Damozel

c1873 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Victoria & Albert Museum

After examining the masterful faces of Botticelli, it seems only fair to remember those that were in awe of him, Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites. Here in Rossetti’s beautifully executed study we can see just how far this celebration goes — the tilt of the head, the serenity of expression, the oval face; all echo Botticelli’s women. The eyes and features are so still, frozen in gaze, that she possesses a statuesque silence, one that Rossetti deemed to be the centre of classic beauty. However here, with the softness of sketching and crumbling chalk, the damozel is not statue-white but warmed with the medium used, the breath of life alive in her face. The colour is all natural, soft skin tone and the light haze of loose hairs, far from the tight golden tendrils of Judith. Of course it is mostly because of the soft chalk that this effect is given, Rossetti’s paintings do not possess such texture, but this is part of the attraction of this drawing. It is pre-emptive in every way, visuality being composed, from its monotone outlines to the depth of colour and shading. Forming before our eyes the damozel appears, a shadow of remembrance from Rossetti’s mind.

 

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