Family Tree Tuesday – Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti
English poet, illustrator, painter and translator, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the son of émigré Italian scholar Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti and Frances Polidori. He was born in London, England and originally named Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti. Although his family and friends called him Gabriel, he put the name Dante first in honour of Dante Alighieri.
Rosetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millai. His work influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement. Rossetti frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877), while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by his sister Christina Rossetti. He created his own method of painting in watercolours, using thick pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects similar to medieval illuminations.
He married Elizabeth Siddal who was his muse, his pupil and his passion. Rossetti became depressed when Elizabeth died in 1862 and buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery, although he later had them dug back up. He idealised her image as Dante’s Beatrice in a number of paintings, such as Beata Beatrix.
Rosetti had two wombats as pets and one of them was often brought to the dinner table and allowed to sleep in the large centrepiece during meals. He later purchased a llama and a Toucan which Rossetti would dress in a cowboy hat and persuade to ride the llama round the dining table for his amusement.
Rossetti’s father Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti was born in Vasto in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. His original family of ancestors was Della Guardia and since many family members had red hair, they were given the nickname Rossetti approximately four generations before Gabriele’s birth. He had his first edition of poems printed in 1807 by Giovanni Avalloni although Gabriele himself described some of them as poor. He published poems that were patriotic and supported the popular movement in Sicily which resulted in him receiving a grant from Ferdinand I of Naples in 1820. His support for Italian revolutionary nationalism forced him into political exile in 1821.
Frances Polidori, Rossetti’s mother, was the daughter of Gaetano Polidori, an Italian writer and scholar living in London. He translated various literary works into Italian, notably, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.
John Polidori, Frances’ brother, is known for his associations with the Romantic movement and credited by some as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction. He wrote the 1819 short story, The Vampyre which was one of the first vampire stories in English.
Rossetti had three siblings Maria Francesca, William Michael and Christina Georgina.
Maria Francesca was an English author who wrote The Shadow of Dante: Being an essay towards studying himself, his world, and his pilgrimage. At the age of 46, Maria became an Anglican nun joining the Society of All Saints. She mad an English translation of the Monastic Diurnal for her order, The Day Hours and Other Offices as Used by the Sisters of All Saints.
William Michael Rossetti was an English writer and critic, he became the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s unofficial organizer and bibliographer. He edited the Brotherhood’s literary magazine The Germ. William Michael edited the first British edition of the poetry of Walt Whitman, published in 1868 and the edition was bowdlerized.
Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember and for the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter. When she was 14, she suffered a nervous breakdown and left school. During this period she, her mother, and her sister became deeply interested in the Anglo-Catholic movement that developed in the Church of England.
Check out Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti’s family tree and see if you’re related!