Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Interpretation of "The Lady of Shalott"


Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s illustration for Alfred Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” appears in the Moxon Tennyson on page 75. This illustration was produced through woodcut by the Daziel Brothers. 

Tennyson's sparse approach to description in the poem left much up to the interpretation of the artist when it came to creating and depicting its character and setting. The Lady of Shalott presented a unique opportunity for the Pre-Raphaelite illustrators to project the plight of the isolated artist onto the themes of the poem. This image communicates the tension inherent within an artist who has the need to both interpret the natural world as they see it and experience it as it is. Ultimately, the fate of The Lady as shown in this image could be representative of the destruction of the artist by the necessity of interacting with the natural world. 

Rossetti’s interpretation of the poem is styled after medieval and renaissance art. This artistic choice reflects the setting of the poem within Arthurian legend by emphasizing the Crusades. The illustration depicts Sir Lancelot gazing upon the Lady of Shalott in the foreground, with swans and knights of the red cross in the background. The contrast between the violence of the war and the peacefulness of the corpse of the Lady mimic the contrast between traditional masculine spheres and the feminine domestic sphere.

Curated by Nicole Bernard, Melissa Emanoilidis, Payton Flood, Mila Kulevska, and Simon Mancuso.

Associated Place(s)

Timeline of Events Associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Interpretation of "The Lady of Shalott"


  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Image Date: 

May 1857