Art History at a Glance
As the title suggests, this painting by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess (or Titan, to be specific) who personified memory. Mnemosyne plays a significant role in Greek mythology as the mother of the Muses. But instead of simply depicting a figure from myth, here Rossetti may be making a more personal statement about art, for the painting includes subtle hints about the artist's aspirations for achieving a form of immortality through his work.
Many of the details in this painting are symbolic and meaningful. Mnemosyne is shown with a delicate lamp in one of her hands, and the small flower that appears near the bottom of the work is a pansy, which usually signifies remembrance in art. Additionally, the model for this painting was the languid beauty Jane Morris. Rossetti's complicated relationship with Morris is alluded to in this suggestive and compelling image.
For More Information
An article about Mnemosyne in Classical mythology is available at Mythography.
David Rodgers has written this informative and engaging book about the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The book, which is part of the Phaidon Colour Library series, features many of Rossetti's most memorable paintings, including his Beata Beatrix and The Blessed Damozel.
My own belief is that I am a poet primarily, and that it is my poetic tendencies that chiefly give value to my pictures... - Dante Gabriel Rossetti