In 1868, he painted Venus Verticordia, a Latin term which means that the goddess plays the role of protector of female chastity. This painting is the best nude by Rossetti and a masterpiece of erotic symbolism.
The warrior woman is authoritative. She firmly holds two weapons. Her apple threw such a discord among men that it generated the Trojan War, yet the fruit is also peacefully or surreptitiously feeding the butterfly. Cupid's arrow is just another source of havoc. She holds it ambiguously as if it were Lucretia's dagger.
Apple leads to Eve, and it is no coincidence that the thick red hair of Rossetti's Venus is surrounded by a halo. In the previous year, his Christmas carol had already approached the theme of the position of the woman in the Christian civilization.
Below the nude breast, the body of Venus is hidden by an abundant rose bush, another voluptuous symbol. John Ruskin went into a rage when he saw the flowers on this painting.
He was probably right not to consider it only as a pre-Raphaelite symbol. Since his marriage failed by lack of consummation in 1846, his approach to women was a subject of ridicule. A recent attempt to restart his life had also just failed, with a very young woman named Rose.
The Venus of Rossetti fortunately pleased other amateurs and the artist made some replicas. A watercolor 67 x 59 cm, also dated 1868, is estimated £ 1M for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 10, lot 8.