Curator's Choice: Mariana
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828–1882
The model for this work is Jane Morris, wife of artist William Morris. Their marriage had become strained as she and Rossetti grew closer, in an intimate relationship that lasted until his death. Rossetti had intended the work to represent Mariana from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and also a Tennyson poem. Mariana waits unhappily for her fiancé, giving her a dejected expression and posture that possibly echoed the model’s real-life dilemma. The painting depicts lines from Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's play, where Mariana listens to a boy singing a song that includes the line, ‘Take, O take, those lips away…’, words that Rossetti had added to the original frame.