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Dante Gabriel Rossetti letter to Hannah Louisa Clabburn, 1865 July 6

 Item — Box: 1, Folder: 11
Call Number: MSS 31

Scope and Contents

"My dear Mrs. Clabburn

Today I am sending in the "Mary Magdalene" by passenger train, so I hope it will not be long on the road. I may as well describe it a little, to help out my idea, though indeed I believe you would find it plain enough.

The scene represents 2 houses opposite each other, one of which is that of Simon the Pharisee where Christ and Simon, with other guests, are seated at table. At the opposite house a great banquet is held, and feasters are trooping to it, draped in cloaks of gold and crowned with flowers. The musicians play at the doors, and each couple kiss as they enter. Mary Magdalene has been in this procession but has suddenly turned aside at the sight of Christ, and is pressing forward up the steps of Simon's house, now casting the roses from her hair. At her side is the alabaster box of ointment. Her lover and a woman have followed her out of the procession and are trying laughingly to turn her back. The woman bars the door with her arm. Those nearest Magdalene in the group of feasters have stopped short in wonder and are looking after her, while a beggar girl offers them flowers from her basket. A girl near the front of the procession has caught sight of Mary & waves her garland to turn her back. Beyond this the narrow street abuts on the highroad and river. The young girl seated on the steps is a little beggar who has had food given her from within the house, and is wondering to see Mary go in there, knowing her as a famous woman in the city. Simon looks disdainfully at her & the servant who is setting a dish on the table smiles, knowing her too. Christ looks towards her from within, waiting till she shall reach him. A fawn crops the vine on the wall below the window where Christ is seen, and some fowls gather to share the beggar girl's dinner, giving a kind of equivalent to Christ's words, "Yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs."

I shall be glad of a word to say that the picture has reached you safely. I hope all your family are now well, and with kindest remembrances,

I remain,

My dear Mrs. Clabburn,

Yours very sincerely, DG Rossetti"


  • 1865 July 6


Physical Description

2 folded sheets (6 pages) : autograph letter signed ; 18 x 23 cm, folded to 18 x 12 cm

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection: The materials are open for research.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Printed letterhead: 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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