Pre-Raphaelites in The City: Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Man Who Sold the World?

Dinah Roe

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Man Who Sold the World? David Bowie credits Rossetti with inspiring drag-queen cult

I was surprised to discover a reference to Gabriel Rossetti in a 1976 issue of Playboy Magazine (which I was only reading for the articles). When interviewer Cameron Crowe asked David Bowie about the inspiration for the eye-catching English cover art for The Man Who Sold the World, David Bowie replied: ‘Funnily enough, and you’ll never believe me, it was a parody of Gabriel Rossetti. Slightly askew, obviously. So when they told me that a drag-queen cult was forming behind me, I said, “Fine, don’t try to explain it; nobody is going to bother to try to understand it.”’

Click here to read the full article. (This is only a link to Cameron Crowe’s website, not Playboy Magazine. To which I would never provide a link in a million years! Because ‘yuck’, basically).

Aside from the fact that I think ‘Slightly askew, obviously’ would make a magnificent album title on its own, Bowie’s parody got me thinking. Was his Pre-Raphaelite pose meant to be generic, or did he have a specific Rossetti picture in mind? While Bowie himself resembles one of the leaner and fairer of the Rossetti models (Lizzie Siddal perhaps?), the closest match I could find for his pose was a drawing of Jane Morris on a sofa, held in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

What do you think? Can you find any better candidates?


  1. This caught my eye in Crowe’s original article: ‘At 29, David Bowie (born David Jones in Brixton, England) is far more than another rock star. He is a self-designed media manipulator who knows neither tact nor intimidation. There is but one objective to his bizarrely eclectic career–attention. Without it, he would surely wither and die. Before a crowd of paying customers, if possible.’

    Could this reply to DGR himself?

    JK responded at 06:15pm on 11/22/2011

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Pre-Raphaelites in the City

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This blog explores the thriving Victorian cities which inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, and were shaped by them in turn. While the Pre-Raphaelites produced poetry and art praising the natural world, most were born and raised in urban environments, and their work retained a cosmopolitan sensibility. Although this blog will sometimes take excursions into the countryside, its focus will remain on city life. If you want more information on images or sources, please get in touch.