Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti was born on 12 May 1828. His father was Gabriele Rossetti a politcal refugee who had been expelled from Naples and arrived in London in 1824. He met Frances Polidori daughter of an Italian emigre, and they married in 1826. His obession was the life and writings of Dante Alighieri and he passed on this love as well as the name to his eldest son.
Rossetti entered University College School in 1837 and in 1841 he enterd Sass’s Drawing Academy. His artistic pursuits were encouraged by his family. In July 1846 he was accepted into the Royal Academy School of Art. He was a striking personality at the schools. Described by Hunt as being, “about five foot seven inches in height, with long brown hair touching his shoulders, not caring to walk erect but rolling carelessly as he slouched along…” He was careless in his dress, which was…”black and of evening cut…the language of the painter was wealthy and polished and he proved to be courteous, gentle and winsome.” He spoke and wrote Italian. Along with his sisters Christina and Maria, and his brother William Michael, he enjoyed writing poetry. Throughout his school days he was torn between the desire to be either poet or painter. At the schools he would hand out to friends his drawings or read aloud his poetry.
It wasn’t long before he became bored with the teaching at the schools and was absent more days than not. Eager to join with Hunt in his revolt against the conservative Academy, he volunteered himself and his artist friends to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He didn’t have Millais’s technical talent or Hunt’s perseverance, but he did contribute a wealth of ideas, creativity, and extensive literary knowledge.
He is at once very English, with cockney humor, jokes, nonsense, and horseplay; and also Italian, being moody, romantic, temperamental and restless. But can he channel all his wayward energy into becoming a leader of a new school of art?