Women in the poetry of painters like Rossetti and Michealangelo

Critics usually divide the painting and poetry of painter-poets into two different forms of art but sometimes artists make their art so fluid that it segues seamlessly from poetry to art.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)   and Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)  both were painter-poets and both depicted women in a different light but their portrayal of women remained consistent in both forms of art.

Rossetti, a nineteenth-century painter depicted women in various moods with throne-wide throats, his depictions filling the entire canvas with bright colors. He acutely detailed the fabrics, backgrounds, and colors. His portrayal of women was seductive, voluptuous, and erotic but soft, not muscular.  Rossetti’s painting and poetry both came from his excessive inclination toward flesh and sensuality which almost always bordered on erotic. Poems like, ‘Love Lily’ and ‘Jenny’ are a couple of examples.  blessed damozel He was a sensual painter and his paintings depicted his obsession with female flesh, showing more of it in his paintings.  Although his paintings were even called pornographic by some, his famous poem, ‘The Blessed Damozel’  (painting with the same name),  spoke of the love that transcends the boundary between Earth and Heaven.

She gazed and listened and then said, Less sad of speech than mild, — ‘All this is when he comes.’ She ceased.

The light thrilled towards her, fill’d With angels in strong level flight. Her eyes prayed, and she smil’d. (I saw her smile).

But soon their path Was vague in distant spheres: And then she cast her arms along The golden barriers, And laid her face between her hands, And wept. (I heard her tears).

Michelangelo depicted his women as having muscles just like men. He was more interested in the depiction of the male body mostly, so even when he sculpted or painted women, he made them fleshier and stronger. His poems, though some of them are delicate and beautiful, reflect his strong sculpting hands transcending into brash and visceral poetry. Some say he sculpted his females as males with breasts. Many of his poems talk about stones and hammers and sinewy bodies just like his sculptures.

Every Conception That A Man Can Find

 Every conception that a man can find

is in the stone itself, already there

concealed in excess, but will still require

a hand to free it that obeys the mind.

And you, like marble, lady without peer,

hold possibilities of every kind;


Michelangelo and Rossetti are artists from different periods in history but the women in their art are reflective of their image of the fair species, one showing androgynous female forms and showing physical strength and one showing expansive flesh and elaborate eroticism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s