barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

dante gabriel rossetti (1828-1882)

the blue bower

london, 1865

oil on canvas

84 x 70.9 cm


fanny cornforth, the artist’s mistress and housekeeper, was the model for this striking image. the cornflowers at the front refer to her name and the passion flowers suggest her fiery character.  but the image is more a hymn to beauty than a portrait. 

a bower is a private setting for lovers and rossetti has decorated it with exotic elements suited to a frankly amorous encounter. the hexagonal tiles combine a chinese cherry blossom motif with an arabic shape and at the front is a japanese stringed instrument, the koto. everything is depicted with a pre-raphaelite attention to detail.

purchased 1959 (no.59.1)


monet, manet and magritte; renoir, rubens, rossetti and rodin; degas, delacroix and van dyck - as well as botticelli, poussin, turner, gainsborough, gauguin, van gogh, bellows and auerbach...

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