Love's Greeting
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Arty Fact

More about Love's Greeting

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Love's Greeting was one of the first investments Isabella Stewart Gardner made after inheriting $1.6 million from Dad.

That sum is equivalent to $45 million in 2020 dollars, and Gardner vowed to dedicate all of it to purchasing artwork, which hangs today in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. After buying a Vermeer with her inheritance, it seems that Gardner chose Love's Greeting as the second major acquisition.

Love's Greeting is the result of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's attempt to capture the "pre-Raphaelite" spirit, as he called it. Rossetti was the major player in forming the PRB, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, not to be confused with PBR, the gourmet beer. Ostensibly, "pre-Raphaelite" describes their idea of a more pure kind of Italian and Roman expression, untouched by the experimentations of the unrestrained post-Raphaelites. "Pre-Raphaelitism," although it has "elitism" in its name, is trying to observe a good piece of common sense: that innovation is not inherently good, and that returning to the roots of something can offer insight. It was, essentially, "Make Art Great Again," and with its wisdom also came its blindness: like the clubs in Calvin & Hobbes, it was "no girls allowed," and, yet, the entire movement owed its existence to women, especially Dante Gabriel's sister, Christina Georgina, who kept the family last name by turning down three marriage proposals.

The PRB was built on the sensibility of Dante Rossetti's namesake, the poet, Dante, whose obsession with a woman named Beatrice is legendary. Picking up on this type of thing, Dante Rossetti began to lead his "brothers" in focusing on a single image of "the perfect woman." He was a self-taught artist who never visited Italy, although his ideas and ancestors came from there. Christina Rossetti, in her sonnet, "The Artist's Studio," talks about the weird feeling of seeing a male artist's multiple images of the same model. She doesn't say "and, in conclusion, my brother needs to dial it down," but it was obvious enough: "Each canvas evokes 'The same one meaning, neither more nor less' as the artist 'feeds upon her face by day and night' and paints the woman 'not as she is, but as she fills his dream.'" Already, Christina has anticipated the Alien movies ("feeds upon her face") and totally captured her brother's mechanical behavior, without naming him directly. Dinah Roe writes that she was not objecting to the objectification of the model but to the "male artist's self-worship." Just after Love's Greeting, the great success of the PRB was not that of one of the "brothers," but Christina's striking poem The Goblin Market, with illustrations by Dante Rossetti, of course.




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