Historical and Literary Fiction / Essays / Poetry / Reviews /Book Cover and Interior Illustrations / Pet Portraits and Other Commissioned Artwork … "Prose may be the lowest order of the rhythmic composition, but we know it is capable of such purity, sweetness, strength, elasticity, as entitle it to a place as a sister art with poetry." Thomas Hall Caine (1853 -1931) from his firsthand "Reflections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti"
Bennison Books, a publisher of excellence, has been showcasing its fine authors. I was honored to be a part of the sublimely beautiful poetry collection “Dancing in the Rain” by my dear inspirational friend Christine Moran, both in creating the cover art and writing the introduction. Please follow the link to this post about Christine and the special gift of her poetry. All profits go to the MS Trust. And take a little more time to check out Bennison Books’ other unique publications and authors.
Today is the 192nd anniversary of her birth, December 5, 1830
A Birthday By Christina Rossetti
My heart is like a singing bird Whose nest is in a water’d shoot; My heart is like an apple-tree Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit; My heart is like a rainbow shell That paddles in a halcyon sea; My heart is gladder than all these Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes; Carve it in doves and pomegranates, And peacocks with a hundred eyes; Work it in gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; Because the birthday of my life Is come, my love is come to me.
Excerpt from The Dove Upon Her Branch
Christina and William Rossetti posing for the painting of Ecce Ancilla Domini by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in November 1849
Another portrait to pose for offered an alternative, productive engagement, being the handmaid of the Lord a worthy occupation. William sitting for the Angel Gabriel completed a happy if draughty distraction of camaraderie and creation with her brothers.
At that time Gabriel worked on Newman Street above a hop-shop or Dancing Academy as its proprietor tried to improve it.
“Why is the painting tall and narrow?” Christina wondered with her first glance at the work in progress.
“It is one-half of a diptych. Its companion will depict the Virgin’s death.”
“Will you have both finished by spring for the RA?” William slapped his arms around himself in an attempt to warm his sleeveless, sheeted body. “Anymore coal for the grate?”
“Doubt it.” Gabriel urgently picked through the pile of brushes on the small pedestal table next to his easel.
Christina noticed they were all thin-handled and fine-bristled. “No wonder you take so long to finish anything.” She also looked at his pallet, noticing he wasn’t mixing colors, but using fresh daubs of unadulterated white, blue, and red paint.
“I hope you won’t get bronchitis again.” William repositioned the woolen shawl that had slipped off her shoulders.
“I haven’t even caught a cold.” Christina had resigned herself to shivering in her flimsy nightgown for the sake of Gabriel’s vision and to prove as enduring as any of the other models who sat for him.
“Interesting.” As he leaned forward, William put a hand on his brother’s back. “Even with as little as you’ve done, I see the perspective of Giotto. Yet, I also see Flemish primitive, what you and Hunt were so taken with in Bruges. Before you started, I noticed you had followed Van Eyck’s practice of preparing the canvas with white ground.”
Gabriel smiled. “I’m sure it will all seem a confused mess to those, like Ruskin, who think their opinions matter.”
“A risk worth taking. But you must enter both panels together.”
“I don’t paint to exhibit.”
“You must, Gabe, to make a name for yourself, a living. Your work must be seen. And critiqued.”
“Says the would-be critic.”
“Now I see why you want me contorted on a corner of that saggy cot.” Christina though it wise to change the subject. “And all wrinkly and looking about to jump up and run away.”
“I thank Collinson for your disquiet.” Gabriel was still brooding over Mr. Hunt falling into arrears with the rent on Cleveland Street and defecting to James’ studio in Brompton.
They had spoken of many things during the hours of posing and painting, breaking to eat and drink, and for Christina and William to wrap themselves in blankets long enough to feel their fingers and toes again. Not once, until that moment, had anyone mentioned the man Christina had, without good reason, agreed to marry. She was almost convinced the last year of his waxing and waning hadn’t happened; that somewhere out there was the face not seen, the voice not heard, the heart that not yet—