Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The M's at Ems, a pen drawing

England, AD 1869

William Morris reading to his wife Jane in the bath

The designer and writer William Morris (1834-1896) accompanied his wife Jane to the German spa town of Ems in order to improve her health. This drawing of the couple by Rossetti was enclosed in a letter to Jane with the comment 'The accompanying cartoon will prepare you for the worst - which ever that may be, the seven tumblers or the 7 volumes'. In other words, drinking vast quantities of spa water was likely to be less traumatic than listening to William Morris reading from his lengthy new book The Earthly Paradise (published 1868).

Rossetti had met Jane Morris (née Burden) in Oxford when she was seventeen. He and William Morris were painting Arthurian murals in the debating chamber of the Oxford Union. She became a close friend of Rossetti and one of the models he employed most frequently. Around the time that he drew The M's at Ems, Jane was modelling, in a very similar pose, for his oil painting La Pia de' Tolomei (Museum of Art in the University of Kansas, Lawrence). Her collection of comical drawings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, mostly making fun of her husband, William Morris, were given to The British Museum by her daughter May.

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More information


V. Surtees, The paintings and drawings of (Oxford, 1971)

L. Parry (ed.), William Morris (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996)

J.A Gere, Pre-Raphaelite drawings in the (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 113.000 mm
Width: 179.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1939-5-13-1


Gift of Dr Robert Steele (the executor of the will of May Morris)


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