His father Gabriele Rossetti was a poet of some celebrity. He sided with Garibaldi against the monarchy in Italy and moved to England as a Neapolitan revolutionary living in exile, hoping to return to his native Italy. The Rossetti home became a salon where early PR sympathizers met. His mother Frances was profoundly religious and influenced by the turmoil within the Anglican church, as was his sister, Christina. Her family, the Polidoris were also artistic. R's maternal uncle John had been Lord Byron's physician. His younger brother William Michael (1829-1919) became the Brotherhood's chronicler. His sister Christina (1830-1894) became a famous poet in her own right. They were close to poverty. Frances, Christina and Dante affected by a natural inclination to melancholia that blighted and gradually assumed control of their lives.
Read the romances of Sir Walter Scott and the poetry of the romantics, enamored by medievalism and legends of chivalry. Criticized for not drawing people in contemporary dress and even unable to master proportion and perspective. His creative energies were bound up in the quattrocentro.
Taught drawing by John Sell Cotman, Professor at King's College in 1834. Became familiar with Ford Madox Brown at an exhibition of his sketches at Westminster Hall in 1844. In 1846 he met Brown and begged to be his pupil and Brown accepted to instruct R for a short time. R was first turned down by the Royal Academy, but was studying there in 1848.
1) The Pre-Raphaelites Inspiration from the Past, Terri Hardin, TODRI Book Publishers, New York, 1996.