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In an Artist’s Studio

Page history last edited by Ana Pineda 11 years, 11 months ago

"In an Artist's Studio"

By Christina Rossetti (1856)

 

One face looks out from all his canvasses, a[1]

     One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans; b

     We found her hidden just behind those screens, b

That mirror gave back all her loveliness. a

A queen in opal or in ruby dress, a

     A nameless girl in freshest summer greens, b

     A saint, an angel; -- every canvass means b

The same one meaning[2], neither more nor less. [3] a

He feeds upon her face by day and night, c

     And she with true kind eyes looks back on him d

Fair as the moon and joyfull as the light; [4]

     Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim; d

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright; c 

Not as she is, but as she fills his dream [5]e  

Footnotes

  1. Note: The blue letters indicate the rhyme scheme of the poem which follows (mostly) the Italian sonnet. The rhyme scheme of this poem is: abbaabba cdcdce.
  2. The lines that end the octave "every canvas means/ The same one meaning" (lines 7 - 8) are important in understanding that the artist finds the same inspiration from the face he paints in all his works.
  3. Between lines 8 and 9, there is a turn in the sonnet. The first octave effectively describes what he paints, and in particular, the fact that he uses the same female face. The second sestet describes his why he uses the same face in all his paintings.
  4. This end rhyme is irregular in that this line should rhyme with line 14 but does not. This is a deviation from traditional Italian sonnets making for an irregular sextet.
  5. we learn that this woman's face is important to him but not in the context of the paintings. Her face simply inspires hope and his dreams.

Comments (2)

Ana Pineda said

at 6:45 pm on Oct 20, 2008

As an Italian sonnet, this poem has a reflective quality to it. The octave describes the "one face" in all the paintings while the sextet offers a reflection as to the meaning of the face for the artist.

Jonah Queen said

at 10:58 pm on Oct 21, 2008

The fact that the Rossetti chose to write this poem in a sonnet form connects it to the subject matter of painting. Paintings must be ordered and structured so a sonnet is a fitting form to describe them. Also, all the paintings are different portraits of the same idealized woman, just like all sonnets are different but still share a similar structure.

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