Thursday, July 17, 2008

wombat love

Poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was quite the character -- charismatic and full of life in his younger days, founder of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artistic movement, racing after beautiful red or golden-haired women he saw on the street to ask them to pose for his latest work, and lover of exotic animals like peacocks and wombats. He even managed to procure his own pet wombats, and apparently they had the run of the house. Rossetti was also brother of poet Christina Rossetti, whom he painted as the Virgin Mary, and a good friend of British Arts & Crafts genius William Morris for quite some time.

Rossetti had strong feelings of guilt after the possible suicide of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, and that combined with his generally intense nature and sensitivity toward critics and criticism most likely drove him to drink and become addicted to chloral hydrate. He was something of a recluse by the time he died and troubled by paranoia and self-doubts, but he clearly is remembered as both a fine poet and artist. Oliver Reed played Rossetti in Ken Russell's curious 1967 film Dante's Inferno, and Oliver did a great job in Oliver's way, but I think Robert Downey Jr. would make an excellent Rossetti if any new bio-pics happen to be in the works -- and if Robert ever wants to take a break from being Ironman and share some scenes with a wombat or two.

(d.g. rossetti self-portrait from; snowy wombat courtesy of wikimedia commons)