Professor Nancy Marshall of the University of Wisconsin-Madison sheds new light on the Delaware Art Museum’s famous painting Veronica Veronese, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Professor Nancy Rose Marshall lectures at UD Library, November 18, 2015.
Are colors, words, and sounds really all that different? Nancy Marshall, the University of Delaware Library/Delaware Art Museum 2015 Fellow in Pre-Raphaelite Studies, addressed this question and challenged common conceptions of differences between the artistic genres in a lecture on Wednesday, November 18th, held at the University of Delaware Library.
Fifty UD students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the lecture, which was followed by a reception. Marshall’s talk came at the end of her three-week residency in Delaware, where she explored collections held at the University of Delaware Library and Delaware Art Museum related to the Pre-Raphaelite artists who reshaped English aesthetic taste in the late nineteenth century. The focus of Marshall’s research was Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s famous painting Veronica Veronese, owned by the Delaware Art Museum, which depicts a sensual, contemplative, red-headed female figure composing music and plucking on a violin. Marshall immersed audience members in the intellectual, aesthetic, and cultural context in which the painting was created, suggesting that Rossetti intended his work to blur the lines between literature, music, and painting. By escorting listeners through the painting’s important visual features—flowers, feathers, musical notation, construction of the human figure—as well as nineteenth-century theories of sound, Marshall postulated how Rossetti may have theorized the symbiotic nature of the arts.
Veronica Veronese, 1872
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)
Oil on canvas, 41 1/2″ x 34″
Delaware Art Museum
Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935
Rossetti’s willingness to blur the lines between discrete aesthetic traditions and concepts challenges our modern tendency to construct the world in oppositional binaries, Marshal asserted. Veronica Veronese is a peculiar painting in its design and juxtaposition of various artistic, musical, and literary elements. Marshall urged audience members to allow these oddities to serve as entry points into Rossetti’s broader message about art and life: fluidity between and unity of the mind, body, senses, and spirit. Painted in 1872 when the famous Dante Gabriel Rossetti was 43 years old, the painting was purchased by Frederick Leyland, owner of the landmark “Peacock Room” (http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/peacock/). It was one of many Rossetti paintings owned by Leyland and today is one of Rossetti’s best-known works.
Mark Samuels Lasner (senior research fellow at the UD Library), Nancy Rose Marshall, and
Margaretta Frederick (chief curator and Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft
Collection at the Delaware Art Museum).
The painting, in the words of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s brother William Michael, represents “fine art in its total range.” According to Marshall, “The picture is trying to produce in its viewers what one would experience when listening to music. The picture is audible….Color and sound are the same.” By “stimulating our bodies in multiple ways,” Marshall concluded, the painting evokes the universal nature of the arts and even unites the spiritual and earthly worlds. “Rossetti believed in the presence of a spiritual world around us at all times. When we experience something sensuously beautiful, that is the sign of divinity with us.”