Date 1890-01-20
Publication Mag. of Art
Topic Portraits of Browning, part 2
AP display
RA display
Subject art
  ↳ lit
Keywords Browning bio. via history w/portraits
Standards first-person recall
  ↳ portraits

Annotation details

90 January Magazine of Art


Browning portrait series, part 2.


Rossetti, William M. "Portraits of Robert Browning, II." Magazine of Art (January 1890): 246. Web. Sept. 2011.


The second of three, this essay goes directly into specific portraiture of Browning with qualitative commentary regarding the likeness to the poet in both physical and personality traits. There is also some commentary on the artists themselves which sometimes presents an opportunity for Rossetti to comment or compliment an artist. For example, the article begins with consideration of an engraved head of browning created by Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite Brother George Frederick Watts. After considering the true likeness of the bust, Rossetti lauds George Frederick Watts as "one of our most thoughtful and discerning masters." Several other Pre-Raphaelite artists (see "References" below) are also mentioned and their works praised in qualitative terms not limited to their Browning portraiture but rather, highlighting the contributions of the Pre-Raphaelite to British art.

The portraiture considered is arranged by Rossetti in chronological order, allowing him to remark on Browning's appearance as well as his circumstances at the time the artwork was produced. Rossetti offers personal commentary to support his description of Browning's physical appearance and circumstances, as well as extended metaphors to flesh out characteristics and impressions. For instance, Rossetti mentions Browning's vision problems (see "Notable/Quotable" below), then extends that discussion as a metaphor encompassing Browning's work as a poet (he can at once see short and long distances and consider both, writing both into his work).

Rossetti uses a typical fin de' siècle scientific analogy to describe Browning in terms of a scientist and his state-of-the-art instruments in order to make new discoveries.

Rossetti's inclusion of a photograph of Browning done by Mrs. Cameron into his discussion of the portraits of Browning is noteworthy. Although in the three essays on the topic of portraiture of Browning photography is mentioned as are several photographs from which portraits were in part derived, this is the only photo thus far considered as a portrait in its own right. There are two other photographs considered in the third and final essay.

See also part one and part three.


descriptive, interpretive, educational, analytic


"truthfully realised", "superior skill", "recollection", "personality"

Standards of Judgment:

true likeness, fidelity in physical and character representation, valid illustration in images and words


George Frederick Watts, Sir Frederick Sir Frederick Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Gordigiani, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Thomas Woolner, Mr. Barrett Browning, Mrs. Cameron, Mr. Frederick Sandys, Felix Moscheles, Mr. Gustave Natorp, M.F. Laird, M.Alphonse Legros



Writing technique/tone:

descriptive, analytic, explanatory


"This discrepancy of physical vision always appeared to me a singular parallel or emblem of the duality of mental vision which is so apparent in Browning's poems," "A Galileo points his telescope at the solar system, a Browning supplements his telescope, adjusted to 'the man in the moon,' by a magnifying glass for the hop-skip-and-jump of some atomy in the herbage at his foot;" "Browning is a man eminently qualified to 'give as good as he gets . . . "