Mrs. Morris and the Wombat

I’ve recently been doing some research on Jane Morris. She was named Jane Burden before she married William Morris, the poet and designer craftsman, and she modeled for many of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s drawings and paintings. Her features have come to represent the quintessential Pre-Raphaelite female beauty, and might look familiar from the posters for the current Tate Britain exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avante-Gardes.

I was bemused/ amused to come across this less-well known drawing by Rossetti of her with  …a wombat.

Rossetti had an ongoing fascination with wombats, and even kept one as a pet. The drawing was made after the death of ‘Top’ the wombat and Rossetti clearly laments its passing in the accompanying poem, which also seems to be a reference to his love for Jane:

Parted Love!

Oh! how the family affections combat

Within this heart; and each hour flings a bomb at

My burning soul; neither from owl nor from bat

Can peace be gained, until I clasp my Wombat.

More information about both drawing and poem can be found on the Rossetti Archive website.

Top the wombat was also a Pre-Raphaelite muse for William Bell Scott, in this drawing now in the Tate Collection.

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