Kirsty Stonell Walker on Fanny Cornforth

Today marks the  anniversary of the death of Pre-Raphaelite model Fanny Cornforth.  She held an important place in the life of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, yet she has long been derided and  dismissed because of her dubious background.  Her final years were a mystery until biographer Kirsty Stonell Walker shed light on them. To honor…
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The bias against Fanny Cornforth

Sir Edward Burne-Jones used Fanny Cornforth as a model for his unfinished painting, Hope,  above.  Although incomplete, it remains one of my favorite paintings of Fanny.  As Jan Marsh points out in Pre-Raphaelite Women: Images of Femininity in Pre-Raphaelite Art, in Hope it is possible to ‘appreciate the ‘fine regular features’ that attracted so many admirers before her…
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Fanny Cornforth in the News

It is thrilling to see Fanny Cornforth in the news this week.  You may remember that recently, #WombatFriday was devoted to the mystery of Fanny Cornforth in honor of Kirsty Stonell Walker’s blog post that shed light on Fanny’s final years. For those of us that follow Pre-Raphaelite news closely, this was this first published…
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The Mystery of Fanny Cornforth

Once again, it’s #WombatFriday!  This week, I am sharing a story with you because for Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts, this is a profound discovery. Fanny Cornforth was a frequent model for for Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Historically, biographers have written more about his models Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Morris, leaving Fanny to the sidelines. Her past as a prostitute…
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Fanny Cornforth’s Earrings

Admittedly, my interest in the Pre-Raphaelites borders on the obsessive.  One of my favorite indulgences is searching for repetitive details, like these earrings: It’s a small thing to notice and I’m sure that the actual earrings themselves don’t hold any real significance other than they belonged to Fanny Cornforth.  But small details like this excite…
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Fanny Cornforth as Fair Rosamund

With the release of Stunner, Fanny Cornforth is happily on my mind.  I thought I’d share one of my favorite paintings of Fanny:  Fair Rosamund by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  This is not the first time I have shared this image here, you can also see Rossetti’s study for Fair Rosamund in this post from June…
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Help #RememberFanny

In 1858, artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti met Fanny Cornforth and she was unlike any model he had ever used.  I don’t think that it is a coincidence that after meeting Fanny, his work developed a new and startling style. There is no denying that it is her face that appears in the first work that ushered in a…
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Exploring La Bella Mano

Iconic Pre-Raphaelite paintings like Millias’ Ophelia, Rossetti’s Proserpine, or practically any Lady of Shalott garner a lot of attention.  (Rightly so.)  Of course, there are also several works that might not capture your eye right away when you see them in books or online, but in person they captivate you so unexpectedly and completely that…
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In a World of Her Own

I’ve seen  Pre-Raphaelite paintings  of women  dismissed as ‘languid’ or ‘vapid’ and many critics view them as sensual images created solely for the male gaze. That’s a fair argument, of course, but I feel it’s a point of view that barely scratches the surface. To me, Pre-Raphaelite women are not shallow objects of beauty, but…
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Painting the Soul

At the age of twenty-one, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote the short story Hand and Soul, which was published in The Germ, a short-lived magazine created by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.    Not only does the story  offer a glimpse into the young Rossetti’s beliefs and aspirations  but it seems to be the only work of fiction…
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Marigolds, Sacred Flowers for the Dead

Our Halloween revelry is over and now we honor our ancestors with the Day of the Dead.  Throughout Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.,  this is Dia de los Muertos, a special event that focuses on togetherness of family and friends and honoring those who have passed on.  It is a beautiful way to honor the…
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The Diaries of William Allingham

If you’re interested in studying the Victorian era seriously, then diaries and letters are important.  At times I feel like a 21st-century snoop, devouring personal journals and private correspondence whenever I get the chance.  Through contemporary accounts, the past may not always come alive but it shines through the mist more clearly.  The diaries of…
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Sidonia: From Burne-Jones to Tim Burton

I posted about Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ painting Sidonia von Bork in 2009, but Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood’s readership has grown quite a bit since then, so I thought I’d revisit it for those of you who are new to this blog.  Honestly, when I read some of the older posts on this site, I can’t help but…
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Rossetti’s Models

Like his Pre-Raphaelite brethren, Dante Gabriel Rossetti used live models in his works.  Throughout the course of his career, the same faces grace his canvasses, ranging from family members to lovers.  Occasionally, models Elizabeth Siddal and Alexa Wilding are confused for each other. Other models may be misidentified completely. so this post is intended to…
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Oracles and Sibyls

sib·yl: noun a woman in ancient times supposed to utter the oracles and prophecies of a god. literary a woman able to foretell the future. Sibyls appear often in art and fiction and I find them indicative of female power and mystery. They represent arcane knowledge of the future, usually sought by someone on an…
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Did Elizabeth Siddal inspire Bram Stoker?

In the early years of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, artist Walter Deverell discovered Elizabeth Siddal working in a millinery shop.  After modeling for his painting Twelfth Night, Siddal posed for several Pre-Raphaelite painters, including William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.  It was the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was captivated by her. He drew and…
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#WombatFriday with the PRS Review

Inspired by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s passion for wombats, every Friday is Wombat Friday at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. “The Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti This week, our hero the wombat appears with the latest edition of The Review, the principal publication of The Pre-Raphaelite Society (edited by…
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In which the wombat admires Mnemosyne

Inspired by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s passion for wombats, every Friday is Wombat Friday at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. “The Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti This week our hero the wombat admires Marie Spartali Stillman.  From November 7, 2015 – January 31, 2016 the Delaware Art Museum will be…
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A #WombatFriday for Burne-Jones

Today is the birthday of artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, the artist who was the genesis of my interest for the Pre-Raphaelites when, at the age of seventeen, I first saw The Beguiling of Merlin.  I’m forty now.  Having spent my entire adult life in the throes of Pre-Raphaelite passion, I look back and realize…
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Slumber revisited

Recently, an unknown study for Leighton’s Flaming June was discovered. The discovery was almost cinematic: Pre-Raphaelite study discovered behind door in English mansion. After the discovery, the sketch sold for a whopping £135,000 through Sotheby’s. I have a rather large framed print of Flaming June in my bedroom, so it is an image I see daily, although I…
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The Unrequited Love of Dante and Beatrice

In reality, Dante loved Beatrice from a distance and they had little to no contact with one another. The  real Beatrice Portinari probably never had any idea of the depth of his passion for her.  Yet she was to become one of literature’s most famous figures. Dante Alighieri first saw and fell in love with Beatrice…
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