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Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828–1882

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Letters to William Houghton Clabburn, 1863-1865.

Physical Description:
11 items (1 box)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
MSS 31
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
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View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was an English poet, painter and translator. In 1848, alongside William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and others, Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets and critics. The Pre-Raphaelites sought to reform British art through a return to honest simplicity and the use of luminous colors and literary themes. In addition to his drawing and paintings, Rossetti was a prolific writer, publishing many of his own poems and sonnets and producing a number of translations of Italian medieval poetry, including that of Dante Alighieri.
The recipient of the letters, William Houghton Clabburn (c.1820-1889), was a Norwich businessman and manufacturer of silk shawls. A close friend and patron of the artist Frederick Sandys, Clabburn came into contact with Rossetti through Sandys's loose association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
This collection is open without restriction.
The letters are not included William E. Fredeman's The correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The collection comprises 11 letters from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Houghton Clabburn written from 1863 to 1865. The last of these is addressed to Clabburn's wife, Hannah Louisa. The letters are accompanied by 8 envelopes addressed to Clabburn by Rossetti. Rossetti's letters primarily relate to Clabburn's commission of an oil replica of Rossetti's Mary Magdalen at the door of Simon the Pharisee. The correspondence records in detail Rossetti's artistic process pertaining to this work. In his letter on 6 July 1865, Rossetti provides an extensive interpretation of the work.
The Mary Magdalen replica is described in Virginia Surtees's catalogue raisonné, in entry no. 109, R2 (page 65). Surtees notes: “Besides R. I, one, or possibly two, further oil replicas appear to have been begun in the early 1860s. The picture seems to have been commissioned by John Heugh in 1862-3, but was cancelled. It is uncertain whether the head and shoulders of the Magdalene had been painted on the canvas (M. p. 98). Clabburn, a Norwich manufacturer, who recommissioned the picture in 1863, denied that the painting had been begun. By July 1865 the replica was despatched to him but he doubted if it was the work of Rossetti's hand. In 1872 it was bought off him by Fairfax Murray. ...”
The letters demonstrate both Rossetti and Clabburn's influential connections in the contemporary art world. Rossetti refers to his and Clabburn's mutual acquaintance Frederick Sandys (of whom Clabburn was a close friend) and other prominent artists of the time including Valentine Cameron Prinsep, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Alphonse Legros. Indeed, the correspondence indicates that, on occasion, Rossetti acted on other artists' behalf. A letter dated 4 December 1864 reveals that Rossetti arranged for the sale of a Legros's La mort de Saint François to Clabburn, with Rossetti remarking “You [Clabburn] must know I [Rossetti] have generally been his [Legros's] business secretary”. In other instances, Rossetti proffers his opinion on cultural events and institutions, declaring lectures at the “Academy” (presumably the Royal Academy) to be “much of a muchness” and remarking upon exhibitions of the time (3 May 1865).
The letters are arranged chronologically.
Subject Terms:
Art -- Collectors and collecting.
Art -- Reproduction.
Clabburn, Hannah Louisa, 1825-approximately 1880.
Clabburn, William Houghton, 1819 or 1820-1889 -- Correspondence.
Legros, Alphonse, 1837-1911.
Legros, Alphonse, 1837-1911. Mort de Saint François.
Painters -- Great Britain.
Painting -- Great Britain -- 19th century.
Prinsep, Val C. (Val Cameron), 1838-1904.
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882. Correspondence.
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882. Mary Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee.
Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain)
Sandys, Frederick, 1829-1904.
Whistler, James McNeill, 1834-1903.

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