Rossetti began work on this subject in 1860 at a time when he was especially interested in the history of the infamous Borgia family. In this watercolour Lucrezia Borgia washes her hands after poisoning her husband, Duke Alfonso Bisceglie. She is aided in the crime by her father, Pope Alexander IV. The reflection in the mirror shows him assisting the Duke to walk, thereby ensuring that the poison thoroughly infects the entire body. Burne-Jones was clearly influenced by the composition when painting the evil heroine Sidonia von Bork (see no.2). Many years after finishing the watercolour, Rossetti revised the details of Lucrezia's face.
Gallery label, September 2004
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.