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The drawing shows Rossetti at the age of fifteen. It was made in November 1843 and 'begged' by the sitter for his mother when he returned to Boulogne the following winter. William Michael Rossetti described it at length in an article on portraits of his brother published in the Magazine of Art in 1889 and again in his biography of the artist that followed in 1895. It is drawn, he wrote, in a dark "blocky" manner ... Rossetti here looks gaunt and uncouth, a hobbledehoy with no girth of chest or shoulder, with blubber lips and almost a quadroon type face; not stupid, but so wanting in finesse as to approach the stolid ... The family always considered it a caricature. In 2002 the editors of Rossetti's correspondence wrote that the drawing had never been reproduced and seemed to have disappeared.
Peppino Maenza was the only son of Giuseppe Maenza, a teacher of Italian and painting who lived in Boulogne. For health reasons Rossetti visited the family in the autumn of 1843 and the winter of 1844, forming a close friendship with Peppino, who was a few years his senior. It was Peppino who encouraged his interest in French illustrators like Garvarni and Tony Johannot, who so profoundly influenced his early style. After showing much early promise, Peppino gave up as an artist, emigrated to Australia and disappeared. Rossetti tried to raise money for his benefit in 1860.
Ownership of the drawings in William Michael Rossetti's collection can be traced back to members of the Rossetti family from whom William Michael evidently inherited them. Lucy Rossetti, William Michael's wife and Madox Brown's daughter, owned this revealing drawing by 'Peppino' Maenza of D G Rossetti, which is recorded as having belonged to Christina Rossetti after her mother's death in 1886.
Given by the artist in December 1844 to:
Mrs Gabriele Rossetti; gifted by 1889 to her daughter:
Christina Rossetti; given to her brother:
William Michael Rossetti; thence by descent to:
Helen Rossetti Angelli; to her daughter:
Mrs Imogen Dennis; by descent to 2010
Mss. letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Michael Rossetti, 1 December 1844, from Boulogne, as having been drawn by Peppino in the previous year
William Michael Rossetti, The Portraits of Dante Gabriel Rossetti - I, Magazine of Art, 1889, page 23
William Michael Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His Family Letters with a Memoir, London, 1895, volume 2, pages 23, 25
William E. Fredeman (editor), The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Cambridge, 2002- , vol. I, pages 33-4 (note 6)