|dc.description.abstract||Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) was an accomplished English painter, poet, designer and translator. He was a leading figure of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood (formed in 1848) which was a movement of a small group of British painters who reformed painting in Britain and influenced painters throughout the world. Rossetti went on to forge a successful career as a painter and by the 1860s he created a distinctive style independent of the original stylistic aims of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.
My thesis focuses on Rossetti’s depiction of musical instruments in a small group of paintings intended for Frederick Leyland. Leyland sought depictions of a single female figure, usually three-quarter length, and depicted with a musical instrument. Leyland and Rossetti made a specific plan for the arrangement of Rossetti’s paintings on Leyland’s walls. This thesis will investigate the symbolic content of this series of paintings and attempt to uncover the common theme. Understanding the purpose of his inclusion of musical instruments in his paintings is complicated because Rossetti’s paintings are dense with ambiguous symbolism. This symbolism resulted in the possibility of various readings dependent upon the viewer’s individual interpretation. To understand any ambiguous symbolism in his paintings, it is necessary to look at all the non-musical parts of the paintings as well, such as the flowers, the dress, the birds and the angels, which are a commonality. This should add to the reader’s understanding of the paintings in general and the complex meaning behind the musical symbolism. Rossetti’s depictions of musical instruments are fascinating as he was often more concerned with the physical shape and the iconographical implications of an instrument than the technicalities of the instrument itself. As such, these musical instruments are often obscurely exotic, especially for a Victorian audience, or even entirely invented without reference to an instrument that exists. Moreover, these musical instruments are often depicted in ways that make them completely unplayable; either the hand positions of the player would negate any sound, or the strings of the musical instrument are obstructed by another object (for example hair, flowers, material from a dress) which would result in no sound.||