An ardent spirit, Gabriele d'Annunzio entertained extremely varied and noteworthy connections and relations with foreign countries. Analysing the purely artistic-literary aspects and turning our gaze towards Great Britain and Ireland, we will note that the Vate borrowed much from the culture of the other side of the Channel, whose avant-garde aesthetic taste he adopted, as well as the unparalleled pre-Raphaelitism in the use of symbols and the creation of verse.

Emanuela Borgatta, lecturer, freelance writer, and columnist, edits a documented essay, the result of many years of research into D'Annunzio. Passing through the discoveries encountered along the way, the author of D'Annunzio. Cross-channel Connections, published by Ianieri Edizioni (in a bilingual version: Italian-English), guides us towards an unpublished d'Annunzio. A new journey (accessible to all and aimed at both Italian and Anglo-Saxon readers) testifies to the poet's eternal contemporaneity.

The volume is accompanied by introductions by Franco Di Tizio and Rebecca Lipkin, as well as a corollary of interviews with writers and curators and a meeting with Giordano Bruno Guerri, dedicated to the future of the Vittoriale.

The excerpt below is dedicated to the Rossettian and pre-Raphaelite influences on Gabriele d'Annunzio.

I may be permitted, in the reverence of sorrow, to speak first of my much-loved friend, Gabriel Rossetti. But, in justice, no less than in the kindness due to death, I believe his name should be placed first on the list of men, within my own range of knowledge, who have raised and changed the spirit of modern Art: raised, in absolute attainment; changed, in direction of temper. Rossetti added to the before-accepted systems of colour in painting, one based on the principles of manuscript illumination, which permits his design to rival the most beautiful qualities of painted glass, without losing either the mystery or the dignity of light and shade. And he was, as I believe it is now generally admitted, the chief intellectual force in the establishment of the modern romantic school in England.

Those who are acquainted with my former writings must be aware that I use the word “romantic” always in a noble sense; meaning the habit of regarding the external and real world, as a singer of Romaunts would have regarded it in the Middle Ages, and as Scott, Burns, Byron, and Tennyson have regarded it in our own times.

(The Art of England and the Pleasures of England, John Ruskin, 1900)

It is easy to guess, through the words of the critic John Ruskin, the centrality - in the United Kingdom and in the Brotherhood - of the aforementioned leader Dante Gabriel Rossetti while, in Italy, the similar cenacle In Arte Libertas took its first steps and met at the Caffè Greco in Rome (a neuralgic meeting place for artists and intellectuals), thanks to the support of such personalities as Ugo Ojetti, Nino Costa and Giulio Aristide Sartorio (the last two, considered to be the Pre-Raphaelite painters par excellence, amongst Italian artists), sharing with their English 'colleagues' the rejection of the Academy and thought aimed to break conventional patterns.

In a journalistic piece written in 1883, Gabriele d'Annunzio, siding with them, states:

We demand something else; we demand something truly youthful, something truly new. We are tired of this solidity that is heaviness, this equality that is coldness, this realism that is ugliness, this fantasy that is exaltation, this drama that is slowness.

D'Annunzio's taste (as an honorary member of In Arte Libertas) embraced primitivism and medievalism typical of the English masters, reinterpreting them in an aesthetic and decadent key. However, his pre-Raphaelitism is not fully decorative, as has often been emphasised and as his Pages on Art would have us believe. This is evident above all from the two opposing visions of femininity that the Vate borrowed directly from Rossetti's schemes, with continuous narrative 'games' poised between the angelic woman (à la Beata Beatrix) and the femme fatale (à la Lady Lylith), a concept reinforced by the first Pre-Raphaelite revival in Italy following Rossetti's death and two exhibitions: the Roman In Arte Libertas held in 1890 and the first Venice Biennale in 1895, which certainly allowed d'Annunzio, who participated with a speech singing the praises of Venice, on the evening of November 8th, to add pieces to his personal Pre-Raphaelite puzzle. Many outstanding guests were, in fact, invited: from Millais to Hunt, from Arthur Hughes to G.F. Watts, and from Leighton to Michetti. It must be pointed out, however, that d’Annunzio discovered the art of Dante Gabriel Rossetti later than Alma-Tadema’s, thanks to Giulio Aristide Sartorio, and there are many characteristics in common with the London painter (but of Vasto origins), not only on an artistic-literary level.

Rossetti lived, in fact, in a house (unfortunately, not preserved) known for its many extravagances reminiscent of the Vittoriale years (see Chapter V), sharing with d’Annunzio a reluctance to travel, a visceral love for his family, as well as a strong temperament for the female universe, to the detriment of his only wife, Elizabeth Siddall, known to most as Siddal, since Rossetti advised her to cancel the double consonant in order to make her name more musical (easy, in this sense, the comparison with d'Annunzio, who also married just once, and was prone to change the names of his female companions).

Rossetti's verse and brushstroke exalted d'Annunzio for their intrinsic symbolism and anti-academism, going so far as to praise the pre-Raphaelite magazine The Germ, admirably edited by William Michael Rossetti, Dante Gabriel's brother.

The bond between d'Annunzio and Rossetti also united those who were their greatest muses: the aforementioned Siddal, an angelic woman, married and portrayed several times (Maria Hardouin, the poet's wife), the inspirational muse Jane Burden, wife of his friend William Morris (the actress Eleonora Duse for d'Annunzio), and Fanny Cornforth, an all-round female character and one of the painter's favourite models, to be compared with the many women 'passing through' in the Vate's life.

We can, therefore, go so far as to conclude that we would not have had the d'Annunzio we know without Dante Gabriel Rossetti and pre-Raphaelitism.