The National Museum of Western Art

update 18 October 2016

on display Permanent Collection

Dante Gabriel Rossetti [London, 1828 - Birchington on Sea, 1882]

The Loving Cup

Materials/Techniquesoil on panel
Size (cm)66 x 45.7
InscriptionsSigned (in monogram) and dated lower left: DGR 1867; Titled on top of frame: THE LOVING CUP; Inscribed on bottom of frame: Douce nuit et joyeux jour / A chevalier de bel amour.
Credit LineEx-Matsukata Collection
Standard ref.Surtees 201
Collection NumberP.1984-0005
The Loving Cup

This work of 1867 is one of the representative works of Rossetti's maturity. Rossetti, both a poet and a painter, drew his subject matter from the Bible, Greek mythology, Dante and Shakespeare in his creation of works filled with Romantic poetic sensibility that feature images of the "femme fatale." Rossetti known also for his lively relationships with women, used his women friends and lovers as models to represent his own image in relationship to the heroines of stories. The model is Alexa Wilding, who frequently appeared in Rossetti's works from the spring of 1865 onwards. Possibly based on a recognition that Alexa's character was not in accord with this subject, Rossetti used a different model in his creation of three replicas of this work in watercolor in the same year. A beautiful young woman with richly braided long brown hair, and wrapped in a deep red robe, raises a golden cup to her lips as she holds the cup's lid to her breast with her left hand and faces the viewer with a dream-like expression. This cup which gives the work its name of The Loving Cup is a cup from which close friends and especially lovers both drink. Here the cup is suitably embellished with heart-shaped designs. The frame of this work is inscribed "Douce nuit et joyeux jour/ A chevalier de bel amour (Sweet night and pleasant day/to the beautifully loved knight)." This inscription shows that the image probably represents a toast to the woman's knight, who is leaving for war or has left for war. While the source of this quote is uncertain, it is thought that Rossetti, steeped in Arthurian legend, wrote the poem himself. A cloth with rich lacework and four brass plates can be seen in the background (the extreme left and the second from the right show deer, the second from the left shows "Hosea and Joshua returning from the Promised Land with a Bunch of Grapes" (Numbers 13:17-29) and the far right plate shows "Adam and Eve eating the Forbidden Fruit"). Ivy, the symbol of fidelity, is also present and the shape of its leaves is reflected in the heart-shaped designs on the loving cup. Even though the true meaning of the work is uncertain, we can see the artist's considerable care both for the formal representation and for the subject's meaning. In any case, this work ably represents Rossetti's superb works in the Pre-Raphaelite style. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no. 91)


F. R. Leyland; Auc. Leyland, Christie's, 28 May 1892, lot 58; T. H. Ismay (died ca. 1908); Mrs. Chandos-Pole-Gell, 1923; Kojiro Matsukata; Jugo Ginko (The Fifteenth Bank), Kobe, 1927; Private Collection, Kobe, 1927; Chichibu-Shokai, Tokyo, 1971; Purchased by the NMWA, 1984.

Exhibition History

Exhibition of works by the old masters, and by deccased masters of the British school, including a special selection from the work of John Linnell and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1883 - 1883, cat. no. 299
The Old Matsukata Collection, Kobe City Museum, 14 September 1989 - 26 November 1989, cat. no. 71, col. repr.
Rossetti, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 22 September 1990 - 14 November 1990, cat. no. 44, col. repr.
[Exhibition for Children] Exploring Mysterious Painted World, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 11 July 1995 - 10 September 1995
Tanka at the National Museum of Western Art: An Encounter between Poet and Art, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 25 July 2000 - 29 October 2000, cat. no. 52
The Rings from The Hashimoto Collection of The National Museum of Western Art, The National Museum of Western Art, 8 July 2014 - 15 September 2014, cat. no. 247


Sharp, William. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London, 1882, pp. 191-192.
Knight, Joseph. Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London, 1887, p. xiv, no. 232.
Stephens, Frederick G. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London, 1894, p. 70.
Marillier, Henry C. Dante Gabriel Rossetti: An Illustrated Memorial of His Art and Life. London, 1899, pp. 147-148, no. 190, repr.
Masterpieces of Rossetti. London; Glasgow, 1923, p. 41.
Surtees, Virginia. The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882): A Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols., Oxford, 1971, no. 201 ("believed to have been lost in the Second World War").
Henderson, Marina. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London, 1973, p. 73 (as destroyed in the Second World War).
Casteras, Susan P. The Double Vision in Portraiture. D. G. Rossetti and Double Work of Art (exh. cat.). Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 23 September - 14 November 1976, [New Haven], 1976, p. 18.
Smith, Sarah Hamilton Phelps. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Flower Imagery and the Meaning of His Paintings. University of Pittsburg, 1978, Dissertation, p. 105 (on subject matter and inscription).
Annual bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. No. 19 (1984), 1988 , Yukiyama, Koji. New Acquisitions 1984. pp. 11-15, Catalogue of the New Acquisitions 1984. pp. 30-32, repr.
Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1989 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 83, repr.
Catalogue of painting acquisitions: 1979-1989. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1990, pp. 58-60, repr.
The Old Matsukata Collection ( Kobe City Museum, ed. Kobe,"Matsukata Korekushon Ten" Jikkoiinkai, 1990, cat. no. 1331.
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 97, col. repr.

Page top