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Desdemona’s Death Song by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Shakespeare, Khayyam, and the Pre-Raphaelites

Farhad B. Naini, BDS, MSc, PhD, FDSRCS, MOrthRCS, FDSOrthRCS, FHEA1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Orthodontics, St George’s Hospital and Medical School, London, England
JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2014;16(6):391-392. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2014.709.
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The mid-19th century saw something of a revolution in Western European art, which began with the French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). In 1855, Courbet had a show in Paris called Le Réalisme, the purpose being to show nature as it was, not a beautified version. The paintings were a protest against the established conventions of the day. This concern with the pretentiousness of art also led a group of young English painters to follow a similar path. This group felt that after Raphael art had taken a wrong turn, attempting to idealize nature rather than show her blemishes and all. The initials “PRB,” for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, first appeared on a number of paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848. Its most gifted member was Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), the son of an Italian refugee.

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Study for Desdemona's Death Song,Othello, Act 4, Scene 3 (circa 1870). Dante Charles Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Pen and brown ink. 43.5 × 34.9 cm. Private collection. Photograph Copyright Christie's Images. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library, 2014.

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