Mnemosyne
Date: 1881
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 49 3/4 × 24 in. (126.4 × 61 cm) frame: 63 1/4 × 39 in. (160.7 × 99.1 cm)
Credit Line: Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935
Object Number: 1935-22
About: This painting, much like Rossetti’s earlier composition of Beata Beatrix (see the Museum's copy of this composition by Charles Fairfax Murray) can be interpreted as a memorial to a past love, in this case, Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris, with whom he had an affair in the 1870s. The title, Mnemosyne, refers to the goddess of memory and the mother of the muses, a poignant symbol of the importance of his relationship with Jane Morris. It was originally to be called Ricordanza, a slightly archaic form of the Italian word for remembrance. This earlier title is just barely visible at the upper left, where it has been covered over with paint. As is always the case in Rossetti’s “double works,” the inscription on the frame reinforces the theme conveyed in the image: Thou fill’st from the winged chalice of the Soul Thy lamp, O Memory, fire-winged to its goal.
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