Stunners : The models and muses within the Pre-Raphaelite circle.

One of my books of the year, last year was Painted Ladies by Lynne Bushell. It tells the story of Pierre Bonnard’s relationship with Marthe, his companion and muse of 25 years, and his new model and muse Renée. It’s a well worn story of working class girls who model for an artist (usually from a higher social class) who find themselves falling in love – or, if unlucky, by the wayside. It’s a choice that offers them a means of escape from the boredom and drudgery of their normal lives, but does nothing for their reputations. Unless they could hit the heady heights of ‘muse’ or better still wife, then society regarded them as little better than prostitutes. They allowed themselves to be painted unchaperoned, and worse undressed, what ‘respectable’ woman would put herself in such a position?

Ophelia Yoga Mat for Sale by John Everett Millais
Ophelia by John Everett Millais – follow link for the full story

It reminded me of the tangled relationships and ‘muses’ that came to define the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. Founded in 1848 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were a group of passionate and idealistic, poets, painters and art critics consisting of William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner . Fashioning themselves in part on the Nazarene Movement and the writings of art critic John Ruskin, Hunt, Millais and Rossetti in particular scandalised the art world, with their challenging of the old order and adherence to a vision of ‘truth to nature’. While they were initially scorned, they came to the attention of their ‘guiding light’ John Ruskin and with his backing achieved wider public acclaim and grew a broader group of adherents, including William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

As a teenager, in the 70’s I fell in love with Pre-Raphaelite art, although at the time I didn’t know that’s what it was. I was beguiled by Millais’s Ophelia, had Burne-Jones’s King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid on my wall and was drawn to Rossetti’s arresting images of Janey Morris. I’ve always been attracted by Arthurian legend and, as a teenage girl, the love, albeit adulterous, between Lancelot and Quinevere. Many of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings fed into that attraction and romanticism. I came to focus on Rossetti and Burne-Jones and their very different, idealised representations of women.

It was as I got older that I discovered the connection between the pictures that I was drawn to. I began to visit exhibitions, galleries and buildings linked to the Pre-Raphaelites. I think it would be fair to say they became a bit of an obsession. For part of my final submission for my PG Diploma in Information and Library Studies I even produced Dante Gabriel Rossetti : A Select Bibliography and Materiography. My interest in Rossetti was also sparked by what I saw as a strange link. Before I was born, I had a due date of 12th May, but was actually born early on 9th April. Rossetti was born on 12th May and died on 9th April – spooky?? Needless to say I began acquiring my own personal library (don’t ask) and started reading more broadly.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, self portrait – 1847

Rossetti coined the word ‘stunner’ to describe any woman who turned heads, who was a goddess, a star and who was worshipped for their beauty. They may not have conformed to the generally accepted view of beauty, but for Rossetti, they fueled his own obsessions and became immortalised on paper and canvas. But who were these stunners? Take Millais’s Ophelia as an example it’s an image that is internationally recognised and loved, it’s also the most popular postcard sold by the Tate Gallery. But ‘Ophelia’ had a real name – Elizabeth Siddal – and a story of her own. She was more than the stories that mythologise her, the model who nearly died from lying in a freezing bath of water, or the macabre subject of an exhumation. She was also an writer and artist with a story of her own. I was lucky to see one of only two exhibition of her work in 1991 at the Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield. It’s immaterial that her work might be styled as naive, what matters is that she had a desire to create art and she tried to make that happen.

Finding about about the women behind the images, saw the growth of another collection of books about their models (who in many cases became lovers and wives). For anyone who may have seen the TV series Desperate Romantics based on the book by Franny Moyle, that was only the half of it. The bad boy antics that both scandalised and thrilled Victorian propriety, helped to mask and marginalise their female associates. But times have changed and now we can recognise the contribution and achievements of what has come to be called the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.

So for anyone who’d like a further glimpse into the world of the Pre-Raphaelite models/muses and loves read on. A list about the Pre-Raphaelite women artists within the group might follow another time. I’ve based my list purely on those that initially served as a model/muse.

In addition to the books listed below are a couple of online sites that are a great resource for further background information, especially where individual biographies are thin on the ground.

The Kissed Mouth

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

The Artist’s Muse – a Reading List

Links are all to Amazon as they also offers second-hand copies for out of print titles (NB these are affiliate links)

General Index

General works on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (main artist links given in brackets)

I’ve added Wikipedia entries to give a standardised, potted basic history.

Fanny Cornforth – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti & George Boyce)

Frances Graham – (Edward Burne-Jones)

Euphemia (Effie) Gray – (John Ruskin and John Everett Millais)

Ruth Herbert – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti & George Boyce)

Emma Hill – (Ford Madox Ford)

Georgiana (Georgie) MacDonald – (Edward Burne-Jones)

Annie Miller – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti & William Holman Hunt)

Jane (Janey) Morris (nee Burden) – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti & William Morris)

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Marie Spartali – (Edward Burne-Jones)

Alexa Wilding – (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Maria (Mary) Zambaco (nee Cassavetti) – (Edward Burne-Jones)

Collective works on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Images of Femininity in Pre-Raphaelite Art

Pre-Raphaelite Women by Jan Marsh

Looks at the women who influenced the Pre-Raphaelite movement in Britain, including fellow artists, models, wives, and lovers, and explains how the paintings helped shape the role of women in Victorian society.

The Pre-Raphaelite Circle (National Portrait Gallery Companions)

The Pre-Raphaelite Circle by Jan Marsh

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood lent its name to one of the most significant and innovative artistic movements of the Victorian age. Jan Marsh’s lively and revealing account of these remarkable men and women explores the individual personalities, the close friendships and the artistic force that bound this diverse group together.

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters Hardcover

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters by Jan Marsh

When the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (the ‘PRB’) exhibited their first works in 1849 it heralded a revolution in British art. Styling themselves the ‘Young Painters of England’, this group of young men aimed to overturn stale Victorian artistic conventions and challenge the previous generation with their startling colours and compositions.

Think of the images created by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others in their circle, however, and it is not men but pale-faced young women with lustrous, tumbling locks that spring to mind, gazing soulfully from the picture frame or in dramatic scenes painted in glowing colours. Who were these women? What is known of their lives and their roles in a movement that, in successive phases, spanned over half a century?

Some were models, plucked from obscurity to pose for figures in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, whileothers were sisters, wives, daughters and friends of the artists. Several were artists themselves, with aspirations to match those of the men, sharing the same artistic and social networks yet condemned by their gender to occupy a separate sphere. Others inhabited and sustained a male-dominated art world as partners in production, maintaining households and studios and socialising with patrons. Some were skilled in the arts of interior decoration, dressmaking, embroidery, jewellery-making –the fine crafts that formed a supportive tier for the ‘higher’ arts of painting and sculpture. And although their backgrounds and life-experiences certainly varied widely, all were engaged in creating Pre-Raphaelite art.

Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses Kindle Edition

Wives and Stunners : The Pre-Raphaelites and their Muses by Henrietta Garnett

A vivid, richly observed and compellingly readable account of the women who held the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in thrall. Offers a dramatic new perspective on a remarkable group of women who lived, loved, suffered and even died, all in the name of art.

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Kindle Edition

Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh

Who were those women who sat for the Pre-Raphaelite painters? Muses to an exclusively male genius, of tragic stature and uncertain health – were they indeed as passive as their portrait painters and their critics contrived to suggest? Jan Marsh reveals the actual lives behind the myth of the Pre-Raphaelite women: Elizabeth Siddal, Emma Brown, Annie Miller, Fannie Cornforth, Jane Morris and Georgina Burne-Jones. A meticulous testimony, this book records the rare vitality of these gifted and ambitious women. Delivering them from a century of masculine misrepresentation, Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood is a fascinating tribute to their spirit of independence in circumstances which conspired to suppress it. It includes an intriguing set of photographs as well as reproductions of the paintings and studies they inspired.

Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers and Heartbreakers from the Victorian Era Hardcover

Pre- Raphaelite Girl Gang by Kirsty Stonell Walker

Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang will introduce readers of all ages to the remarkable women of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement which began in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued through the early part of the twentieth. From models to artists, these women all contributed something personal and incredible towards the most beautiful and imaginative art movement in the world. From duchesses to poor laundresses, each woman has a story to tell and a unique viewpoint on art no matter their age, status or background. Rich or poor, black or white, these women redefined what it meant to be beautiful and influential in a male-dominated world and broke new ground in art, business and women’s rights to pursue the life they loved. Spanning almost a century and uncovering the truth behind some familiar and less familiar faces, this collection will offer new information to readers already interested in Pre-Raphaelite art and open the doors on an enchanting and revolutionary band of women who are unlikely and compelling role models. Artists, sculptors, inventors, models, wives, sisters and muses, all provide inspiration for ground-breakers and trouble-makers today.

Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle

Their Bohemian lifestyle and intertwined love affairs shockingly broke 19th Century class barriers and bent the rules that governed the roles of the sexes. They became defined by love triangles, played out against the austere moral climate of Victorian England; they outraged their contemporaries with their loves, jealousies and betrayals, and they stunned society when their complex moral choices led to madness and suicide, or when their permissive experiments ended in addiction and death. The characters are huge and vivid and remain as compelling today as they were in their own time.

The influential critic, writer and artist John Ruskin was their father figure and his apostles included the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the designer William Morris. They drew extraordinary women into their circle. In a move intended to raise eyebrows for its social audacity, they recruited the most ravishing models they could find from the gutters of Victorian slums.

The saga is brought to life through the vivid letters and diaries kept by the group and the accounts written by their contemporaries. These real-lie stories shed new light on the greatest nineteenth-century British art.

Pre- Raphaelites in Love by Gay Daly

A portrait of the Pre-Raphaelites and the women they loved and painted. It describes the scandals, betrayed lovers, secret dalliances, endless engagements, stormy marriages and suicides that affected this group.

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The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

Fanny Cornforth

Stunner : The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth Paperback

Stunner : the Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth

The first full length biography of the muse and mistress of Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with details of previously unpublished letters, and recently identified portraits, and details of how this former prostitute assisted in the founding of one of America’s foremost art collections.

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Frances Graham

Portrait of a Muse: Frances Graham, Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Dream Kindle Edition

Portrait of a Muse : Frances Graham, Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Dream by Andrew Gailey

‘You haunt me everywhere.’ So wrote Edward Burne-Jones to Frances Graham, his muse for the last 25 triumphant years of his life: ‘I haven’t a corner of my life or my thoughts where you are not’. He drew her obsessively, included her in some of his most famous paintings, and showered her with gifts. Even when she betrayed him to marry, he would return to her. To him ‘all the romance and beauty of my life means you.’ This is the first biography of his muse. In a discreet, subtle, human way, her life is a study in power – artistic, social, political, familial, local – and all the more fascinating for being played out from a perennial position of weakness. What makes a muse? The word conjures up for the artist a human cocoon of sexual allure and worship: part inspiration, part lover and protector. Yet however beguiling, demanding and volatile a muse could be, it remained a life surrendered to the art of another. In Victorian England, this was especially so with the hierarchies between the sexes so firmly entrenched. The life of a muse to a Pre-Raphaelite artist was no different: Ruskin and Effie Gray, Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal, both powerfully destructive relationships that ended respectively in divorce and death. The one who survived was Frances Graham. She had a restless, irrepressible intelligence, able to mix at her small dinners politicians and aristocrats with writers, artists and the up and coming, be they Oscar Wilde or Albert Einstein. In time, she became the confidante of three government ministers, including Asquith, the Liberal leader. ‘The Portrait of a Muse’ is the tale of a remarkable woman living in an age on the cusp of modernity.

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Euphemia (Effie) Gray

Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais Kindle Edition

Effie : The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais

Effie Gray, a renowned beauty and socialite, was at the centre of Victorian England’s most scandalous love triangle, involving two giants of the art world. Married at nineteen to the much older John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the time, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union with a husband who was to claim that ‘her person was not formed to excite passion’. Then, on a trip to Scotland during which John Everett Millais, Ruskin’s acclaimed protégé, was supposed to paint her husband’s portrait, she and Millais fell in love. This was to result in public disgrace, but also in a long and happy second marriage. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie’s extensive and previously unseen letters and diaries to reveal the reality behind this great Victorian love story. A major critical reassessment of the Victorian art world, the book addresses the careers of Ruskin and Millais from a new angle, with Effie emerging as a key figure in the artistic development of both men. Effie, her sisters and daughters appear in many of Millais most haunting images, embodying Victorian society’s fears about female sexuality and freedom. ‘The Model Wife’ is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the most beautiful and celebrated pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Marriage of Inconvenience: The Truth Behind the Most Notorious Marriage of the 19th Century Kindle Edition

Marriage of Inconvenience : The Truth Behind the Most Notorious Marriage of the 19th Century by Robert Brownell

What really happened in the most scandalous love triangle of the nineteenth century? Was it all about
impotence and pubic hair? Or was it about money, power and freedom? If so, whose? What possibilities were there for these young people caught in a world racked by social, financial and political turmoil? And whose interests were helped by turning an intensely private tragedy into a national scandal?

Once the accepted story of celebrity, sex, and art had entered the public psyche it never lost its fascination. Books, plays, television series, an opera, films (including Emma Thompson’s Effie Gray, shortly to be released) have all shown Effie taking her destiny in her own hands and breaking free of a repressed and repressive husband. It is an easy take on the Victorians and how we have moved on. But the story isn’t true.

In Marriage of Inconvenience Robert Brownell brings together a huge range of contemporary documents – some never seen before, some hitherto suppressed. Together they make up one of the most detailed and fascinating accounts of an historical marriage ever written – with much of it in the words of the protagonists themselves.

And perhaps most importantly of all, as the myths were propagated by enemies of Ruskin’s social and
artistic reform, this new account will give fresh understanding of Ruskin and the potency of his ideas for us today.

Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages Kindle Edition

Parallel Lives : Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose

In every relationship there are two narratives; more often than not these narratives do not converge.

This is the basis for academic and writer Phyllis Rose’s cult classic Parallel Lives, a book that examines five literary Victorian partnerships, from Charles Dickens’s disastrous marriage to Catherine Hogarth to George Eliot’s joyful and unwed union with George Henry Lewes.

In an age where divorce was scandalous and ‘until death do us part’ was taken literally, the subjects of Rose’s book were forced to find inventive and surprising ways to coexist. As she tracks the shifting tides of power within these parallel lives in fascinating detail, Rose shows how desire, fantasy and control play out in our most intimate relationships.

Parallel Lives is an engrossing group biography and an essential work of feminist non-fiction that continues to resonate, compelling us to reflect on how we live now.

Effie Gray, Fair Maid of Perth Hardcover

Effie Gray : Fair Maid of Perth by Linda Randall

On the whole the Victorians were a pretty repressed lot. You only have to look at the plants and ornaments they put under glass cases. Lytton Strachey once referred to it as the Glass Case Age. He said it was the result of an innate incapacity for penetration: ‘All enclosed in glass – all physically impotent …it’s damned difficult to copulate through a glass case.’ Beginning with previously unpublished letters from Effie Gray’s childhood, Linda Randall has traced the story of the clever little Scots girl who grew up to become known as ‘The Fair Maid of Perth’ and who went on to marry two artistic giants of the nineteenth century: John Ruskin and John Everett Millais. This is the story of Effie’s marriage to John Ruskin, and how she learned to deal with it.

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Ruth Herbert

The Actress and the Brewer's Wife: Two Victorian Vignettes

The Actress and the Brewer’s Wife : Two Victorian Vignettes by Virginia Surtees

Respectability and class distinction were al l-important in Victorian society and the two women portrayed in this book, Miss Herbert and Lady Meux, had to conceal th e origins of their early lives. ‘

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Emma Hill - Wikimedia Commons
Sadly no Wikipedia entry of her own
Into The Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown Kindle Edition

Into the Frame : the Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown

Madox Brown, who grew up in France and Belgium before he came to England and won fame with paintings like ‘The Last of England’, was always an outsider, and the women he loved also burst out of stereotypes. His two wives, Elisabeth Bromley and Emma Hill, and his secret passions, the artist Marie Spartali and the author Mathilde Blind, were all remarkable personalities, from very different backgrounds.

Their striving for self-expression, in an age that sought to suppress them, tells us much more about women’s journey towards modern roles. Their lives – full of passion, sexual longing, tragedy and determination – take us from the English countryside and the artist’s studio to a Europe in turmoil and revolution. These are not silent muses hidden in the shadow of a ‘Master’. They step out of the shadows and into the picture, speaking with voices we can hear and understand.

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Georgiana (Georgie) MacDonald

A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin Kindle Edition

A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin

The Macdonald sisters — Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa — started life among the ranks of the lower-middle classes, with little prospect of social advancement. But as wives and mothers they made a single family of the poet Rudyard Kipling, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Poynter, President of the Royal Academy, and the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. In telling their remarkable story, Judith Flanders displays the fluidity of Victorian society, and explores the life of the family in the 19th century.

The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination

The Last Pre-Raphaelite : Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination by Fiona MacCarthy

The angels on our Christmas cards, the stained glass in our churches, the great paintings in our galleries – Edward Burne-Jones‘s work is all around us. The most admired British artist of his generation, he was a leading figure with Oscar Wilde in the aesthetic movement of the 1880s, inventing what became an iconic ‘Burne-Jones look’. Widely recognised as the bridge between Victorian and modern art, he influenced not just his immediate circle but European artists such as Klimt and Picasso.

In this gripping book, award-winning biographer Fiona MacCarthy dramatically re-evaluates his art and life – his battle against vicious public hostility, the romantic susceptibility to female beauty that would inspire his work but ruin his marriage, his ill health and depressive sensibility, and the devastating rift with his great friend and collaborator, William Morris, when their views on art and politics diverged.

Blending new research with a fresh historical perspective, The Last Pre-Raphaelite tells the extraordinary story of Burne-Jones: a radical artist, landmark of Victorian society – and peculiarly captivating man.

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Annie Miller – Holman Hunt & Rossetti

My Grandfather His Wives and Loves by Diana Holman Hunt

“William Holman Hunt was a central figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a painter still best known for such works as ‘The light of the world’ an allegory on our failure to follow the teachings of Jesus. Hunt’s private life, however, as unveiled by his grand-daughter, was a combination of passions galore, of sensuality substituing for sense, and of an eccentricity typical of the Victorian ability to combine public morality with private pleasure.”

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Jane (Janey) Morris (nee Burden)

Jane Morris: The Pre-Raphaelite Model of Beauty Paperback

Jane Morris : The Pre-Raphaelite Model of Beauty by Debra N Mancoff

Immortalized by painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and widely imitated by fashionable women, Jane Morris (1839-1914) was not a typical Victorian beauty. Her unruly dark hair, lanky figure, and loose garments stood out in an age that favored petite, fair-haired women with feminine curves. Drawing on lavish portraits and rare photographs, Debra Mancoff examines Morris’s image within the context of Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic ideals and Victorian standards of fashion. Part biography, part art history, and part cultural study, Jane Morris traces the beauty’s rise from an eighteen-year-old working-class Oxford girl to a virtual “supermodel” for the Pre-Raphaelites, focusing on her relationships with artist-designer William Morris, whom she married in 1859, and Rossetti, with whom she shared a life-long romance

Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story, 1839-1938 Paperback

Jane and May Morris : A Biographical Story 1839-1938 by Jan Marsh

Jane Morris: The Burden of History (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture) Hardcover

Jane Morris : The Burden of History by Wendy Parkins

This is a scholarly monograph devoted to Jane Morris, an icon of Victorian art whose face continues to grace a range of Pre-Raphaelite merchandise. Described by Henry James as a ‘dark, silent, medieval woman’, Jane Burden Morris has tended to remain a rather one-dimensional figure in subsequent accounts. This book, however, challenges the stereotype of Jane Morris as silent model, reclusive invalid, and unfaithful wife. Drawing on extensive archival research as well as the biographical and literary tradition surrounding William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the book argues that Jane Morris is a figure who complicates current understandings of Victorian female subjectivity because she does not fit neatly into Victorian categories of feminine identity. She was a working-class woman who married into middle-class affluence, an artist’s model who became an accomplished embroiderer and designer, and an apparently reclusive, silent invalid who was the lover of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Wilfred Scawen Blunt. Jane Morris particularly focuses on textual representations – in letters, diaries, memoirs and novels – from the Victorian period onwards, in order to investigate the cultural transmission and resilience of the stereotype of Jane Morris. Drawing on recent reconceptualisations of gender, auto/biography, and afterlives, this book urges readers to think differently – about an extraordinary woman and about life-writing in the Victorian period. It is the first scholarly study of Jane Morris, which seeks to challenge the stereotype surrounding her as melancholy invalid and Pre-Raphaelite femme fatale. It is an innovative case study of the role of class, gender and sexuality in the formation of Victorian feminine subjectivity. It is a contribution to emerging field of new biography and Victorian afterlives through the inclusion and examination of a wide variety of texts which construct the self. It is an original exploration of feminine creative agency that challenges conventional understandings of masculine artistic autonomy in the Victorian period.

The Collected Letters of Jane Morris

The Collected Letters of Jane Morris – Jan Marsh

Jane Morris (1839-1914) was a famous Pre-Raphaelite model, wife of William Morris and one of the Victorian age’s most enigmatic figures. Her long love affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti has become the stuff of legend. Later she had a romantic relationship with the adventurer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Through her daughter May, she had a contentious interaction with George Bernard Shaw. The greater fame of husband and lovers caused her to be overlooked, but she has always aroused historical interest and partisan debate. Like other women in history her emergence from mute image into speaking subject has come about through feminist scholarship, but is of wide appeal. The editors of this volume have discovered more than 500 letters from Jane to many and diverse correspondents, which radically revise the popular view of a silent, discontented invalid and reveal the range of her interests and opinions. The majority of the letters are unpublished and are fully annotated. They reveal Jane’s involvement in many of Morris’s endeavours such as the family firm Morris & Co., the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the 1882 Icelandic Relief Committee, and the Kelmscott Press, and offer new insights into the life of the Morris family. An independent thinker, Jane was politically engaged, although voteless, and her letters are informed by the turbulent events of the 1880s. She did not follow Morris into the Socialist movement, but retained Liberal allegiances and became an ardent supporter of Irish Home Rule. Jane Morris’s letters complement those of her husband William Morris (edited by Norman Kelvin) and her lover Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In addition to the texts, the book includes a selection of the portraits and paintings through which Jane became a Pre-Raphaelite icon and archetypal femme fatale.

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Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal

Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel

Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel

The supermodel did not arrive when Twiggy first donned false eyelashes; the concept began more than 100 years previously, with a young artists’ model whose face captivated a generation. Saved from the drudgery of a working-class existence by a young Pre-Raphaelite artist, Lizzie Siddal rose to become one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain and a pivotal figure of London’s artistic world, until tragically ending her young life in a laudanum-soaked suicide in 1862. In the twenty-first century, even those who do not know her name always recognise her face: she is Millais’ doomed Ophelia and Rossetti’s beatified Beatrice. With many parallels in the modern-day world of art and fashion, this biography takes Lizzie from the background of Dante Rossetti’s life and, finally, brings her to the forefront of her own.

The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal Paperback

The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal by Jan Marsh

In The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal, first published fifteen years ago, Jan Marsh enlarged on the life of one of the subjects of her earlier work, Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, and delineated the true story of Elizabeth Siddal as an artist in her own right separated from the ubiquitous historical images. Examples were drawn from the Freudian revolution in the 1920s, the cinematic melodrama of the 1930s, the social awakening of the 1940s and the sexual liberation of the 1960s. Each of these eras fostered its own Elizabeth Siddal myth, and in the process the coppery-haired poet and painter changed from suicidal waif to ideal gentlewoman to feminist. Re-issued and with a new introduction, and following the success of Desperate Romantics, the BBC’s series on the Pre-Raphaelites last year, Marsh brings The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal up to date.

My Ladys Soul: The Poems of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall

My Ladys Soul: The Poems of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall

Elizabeth Siddall is best known as the muse and model for many Pre-Raphaelite artists and as the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, she was also an artist and a poet. This book publishes all her extant poetry in a single volume for the first time. Serena Trowbridge has undertaken extensive archival research to restore Siddall’s better-known poems – often heavily edited in previous publications – to their original form, and to identify and reproduce poems and fragments not previously included in anthologies. Elizabeth Siddall’s own voice emerges fully from these pages, supporting her rediscovery as a creative artist in her own right

Elizabeth Siddal : Pre-Raphaelite Artist 1829-1862 (Exhibition Catalogue) Ruskin Gallery, Collection of the Guild of St George / Sheffield Arts Department, 1991.

Ophelia's Muse Kindle Edition

Ophelia’s Muse by Rita Cameron (Fiction)

“I’ll never want to draw anyone else but you. You are my muse. Without you there is no art in me.”

With her pale, luminous skin and cloud of copper-colored hair, nineteen-year-old Lizzie Siddal looks nothing like the rosy-cheeked ideal of Victorian beauty. Working in a London milliner’s shop, Lizzie stitches elegant bonnets destined for wealthier young women, until a chance meeting brings her to the attention of painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Enchanted both by her ethereal appearance and her artistic ambitions–quite out of place for a shop girl–Rossetti draws her into his glittering world of salons and bohemian soirees.

Lizzie begins to sit for some of the most celebrated members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, posing for John Everett Millais as Shakespeare’s Ophelia, for William Holman Hunt–and especially for Rossetti, who immortalizes her in countless paintings as his namesake’s beloved Beatrice. The passionate visions Rossetti creates on canvas are echoed in their intense affair. But while Lizzie strives to establish herself as a painter and poet in her own right, betrayal, illness, and addiction leave her struggling to save her marriage and her sense of self.

Rita Cameron weaves historical figures and vivid details into a complex, unconventional love story, giving voice to one of the most influential yet overlooked figures of a fascinating era–a woman who is both artist and inspiration, long gazed upon, but until now, never fully seen.

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Marie Spartali

A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James Stillman

A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James

As occasional model for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) remains a well-known face of the Pre-Raphaelite era. William James Stillman (1828-1901) founded and edited The Crayon , the first successful American fine art journal. Stillman painted with members of the Hudson River school and was a pioneering and creative photographer.

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Alexa Wilding (Rossetti)

A Curl of Copper and Pearl Paperback

A Curl of Copper and Pearl by Kirsty Stonell Walker

London, 1865: Literally plucked from the street, Alice Wilding finds herself the silent audience to the most turbulent years of the life of bohemian artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. As his dumb muse, she witnesses infidelity, madness, forgery, lust, theft and death. A Curl of Copper and Pearl is a memoir of the lives of others in a world where truth is reliant on who is painting the picture.

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Maria (Mary) Zambaco (nee Cassavetti)

I’ve not traced any detailed works on Maria so it’s a case of referencing collected works and online sources.

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Many thanks for reading and allowing me to talk about one of my passions. It’s also thrown up some books I need to add to my collection which is always bad news, aah well, it has to be done!

Happy reading!!


  1. What a fascinating article. I too had posters of the Pre-Raphaelites on my bedroom wall at Uni. The paintings fascinated me with their detail and symbolism. When we were in Italy (in Vasto), I came across a statue of Dante Gabriele Rosssetti – and vowed to find out why. Which I haven’t done yet – but I’m sure you know. He probably lived there for a while??? And his sister’s poems, I like too. You’ve given us so much to delve into with all these recommendations. Thank you. xx

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    • They’ve always fascinated me, long before I realised the links between them all. I still have numerous Pre-Raphaelite paintings around the house (sadly not the real thing!) I’ve even converted my OH! Re the statue in Vasto, I think it’s Gabriele Rossetti who was actually Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s father. He was born in Vasto and was also a poet. He left Italy as an exile for supporting the Neapolitan Constitution. He eventually got a job teaching in London which is where all the Rossetti siblings were born. I’m also a fan of Christina’s, they were a very talented family. Glad you liked the post x


  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your models’ post. On another note, I can still only get to your site on my laptop. Not my cell. But, I am working hard on fixing the issue. So far the WordPress forum has not been very helpful.

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