Work of the week marks London Fashion week with the painting Monna Vanna, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Monna Vanna' 1866
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    Monna Vanna 1866
    Oil on canvas
    support: 889 x 864 mm frame: 1290 x 1168 x 92 mm
    Purchased with assistance from Sir Arthur Du Cros Bt and Sir Otto Beit KCMG through the Art Fund 1916

The jewel-encrusted model we see, Alexa Wilding, is enveloped in giant sleeves of white and gold silk, which in 1860s London suggests worldliness and modernity. The billowing gown is accompanied by intricately painted decorations; bottle-green shoulder rosettes, beads and detailed hair clasps punctuate the composition of this portrait, making the eye work in a circular motion as we absorb the rich display of Pre-Raphaelite fashion and beauty.

With Monna Vanna, Rossetti intended to represent ‘the Venetian ideal of female beauty’ and considered the painting to be one of his best works, claiming it ‘probably the most effective as a room decoration that I have ever painted’.