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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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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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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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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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 Significance of Marigolds

Marigolds were the first flowers I planted as a child. I have a distinct memory of my mother buying them and preparing the flower bed, showing me how to use the spade and how to space the flowers so that they weren’t either too close to each other or too far apart.  Isn’t it funny…
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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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Her enchanted hair

And  her enchanted hair was the first gold./And still she sits, young while the earth is old –from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnet Lady Lilith Lilith appears here with pale skin and clad in a white gown, making her luxurious hair the most vivid thing in the room.  In this painting, Dante Gabriel Rossetti is not…
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Burne-Jones representations of Nimue

Le Morte d’Arthur captivated Edward Burne-Jones. His passion for all things Arthurian dated back to his days as an undergraduate at Oxford, when he and close friend William Morris would read the tales together.  Burne-Jones painted Arthurian subjects several times in his career, including the famous The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon. Merlin was…
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What is the “Pre-Raphaelite Woman”?

Women are central figures in Pre-Raphaelite art and this has given us the concept of a “Pre-Raphaelite Woman”. I frequently see the term ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ in occasional news articles, usually describing an actress or singer with long curly hair.  Florence Welch is often described as Pre-Raphaelite and it’s definitely a look she has embraced. But was there…
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Regina Cordium (Queen of Hearts)

In 1859, Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted Bocca Baciata and it was a radical change in style. Afterwards his work gravitated towards images of a single female, quite often depicted from the bust up and surrounded by flowers, jewelry and other symbolic objects. Why the change? In the late 1850’s Rossetti had definitely matured as an…
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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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The Impossible Mirror of Lady Lilith

I’ve mentioned my love of mirror paintings before: Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus, Viola, Photograph of Fanny Cornforth, Seeking out mirrors, and Preparing for the Ball. It’s understandable if we fail to notice the mirror in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Lady Lilith (previous post about the painting here).  Our eyes are naturally drawn to Lilith,…
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Those Rossetti Lips

One of my favorite details in Rossetti’s Proserpine is that her lips are painted almost the exact shade of the pomegranate.  Those luscious, cupid’s bow lips and the elongated neck are indicative of Rossetti’s later style.  It was a time in his life when he was plagued with mental health troubles and personal drama, yet…
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Rossetti Studies

Often I find that I prefer an artist’s studies to the completed work.  Perhaps it is that they are raw beginnings, a hint of what is to come.  Although usually I feel that a certain emotional quality is captured in the face of the model and somehow lost in translation when recreated in oils. Head…
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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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Win a signed copy of Stunner

As mentioned previously, a new and improved edition of Stunner has been released into the wild. Stunner, the biography of model Fanny Cornforth, belongs on the shelf of all Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts. Kirsty Stonell Walker has launched a contest to give away a signed copy of the book. She (and her daughter and chicken) has posed…
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Stunner!

I am excited to share that you may now purchase Kirsty Stonell Walker’s biography of Pre-Raphaelite model Fanny Cornforth.  This is by far one of the best Pre-Raphaelite biographies I have ever read and it needs a home on your shelf. This is technically the second edition of Stunner, but even if you already own…
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Watch out for Stunner

Before Christmas, Kirsty Stonell Walker sent me her revised manuscript of Stunner to read.  People, it is awesome.  I’m not sure when the projected release date will be, but as soon as it is out I urge all Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts to snap up a copy. Stunner is the first full-length biography of Pre-Raphaelite artist’s model…
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