La Bella Mano

Dante Gabriel Rossetti1875/1875

Delaware Art Museum

Delaware Art Museum

Rossetti completed the sonnet entitled La Bella Mano a year after the painting, suggesting the visual representation may have been the inspiration for the poem. The two stanzas which appear on the frame are in Italian, a language in which Rossetti was fluent from an early age.

As in many of Rossetti’s late works, the composition is lacking in narrative. Instead it is an image of the personification of love—a Venus assisted by her winged attendants. The canvas is rich in details all contributing to the theme of love—both spiritual and earthly—as represented in the central figure. An abundance of symbols reinforce the theme, including the scallop shell, recalling the sea-birth of Venus. The effect of a halo is created by the convex mirror showing the bed, which entices a present or future lover.

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