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Oil painting - The Day Dream
  • The Day Dream
    Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, born 1828 - died 1882
  • Enlarge image

The Day Dream

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1880 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, born 1828 - died 1882 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 81, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case East Wall

The sitter for this painting was Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris, who often posed for Rossetti. At the time this was painted Rossetti was involved in an illicit love affair with Jane. He shows her sitting in the branches of a sycamore tree and holding a sprig of honeysuckle. This sweet-smelling climbing plant symbolised the bonds of love for the Victorians, and Rossetti may have included it here as a subtle reference to the relationship between artist and model. Rossetti was also a poet, and the title relates to his poem of the same name which ends:
She dreams; till now on her forgotten book
Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.

Physical description

The Day Dream, oil on canvas, 158.7 x 92.7 cm.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1880 (painted)


Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, born 1828 - died 1882 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas


Height: 158.7 cm estimate, Width: 92.7 cm estimate, Height: 195.3 cm frame, Width: 128.8 cm frame

Object history note

Commissioned by Constantine Alexander Ionides for 700 guineas (£735) by 31 October 1879, CAI.3 was finished by December 1880 (cf. letters from the artist to C. A. Ionides between 31 October 1879 and late 1880 in the N.A.L [MSL./1979/2601/1-5] and from the artist to C. A. I dated 15 September and 9 December 1880, private collection). The work is listed in Ionides' inventory of November 1881 as 'Day Dream' by D.G. Rossetti with a valuation of £800; Constantine Alexander Ionides, by whom bequeathed in 1900.

Historical significance: Rossetti's last finished work, to which he gave great attention, considering the numerous letters he sent to his patron while executing the painting. He was confident with the quality of the painting, and wrote to Ionides on 18 march 1880: 'I am glad to say it is far advanced & will be beyond question as good a thing as I ever did.' (National Art Library, 86.WW.1
Rossetti was very directive concerning the way the work should be exhibited in Ionides' home: 'The picture itself need not stand more than a foot at very utmost from the ground, to be seen to advantage by a seated person. (...)The picture should slope forward (...). It should be as far away from the white dado as possible, & the stand not made light but dark. The picture cannot help looking dull otherwise, though it is very brilliant if it gets a chance. It ought to stand with the light from the left of spectator, as here, otherwise it will lose in effect.' (undated letter, private collection).

Descriptive line

Oil on canvas, 'The Day Dream', Dante Gabriel Rossetti, England, 1880

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
C. J. H., 'The Constantine Alexander Ionides Bequest', article 1, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 5, n. 17 (August 1904), p. 456.
Doughty, Oswald, A Victorian Romantic: Dante-Gabriel Rossetti, London, 1949, p. 619.
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1985, p.178
Treuherz, Julian, Elisabeth Prettejohn and Edwin Becker. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. exh.cat. London; New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson, 2003, p. 216, cat. no. 154


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Romanticism; Honeysuckle; Dresses; Women; Books; Reading; Flowers; Trees


Paintings; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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