Rossetti’s Lilith

'Lady Lilith', Dante Gabriel Rossetti
‘Lady Lilith’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti originally painted Lilith using Fanny Cornforth as a model when he began painting it in 1864. For some reason, in 1868, he changed the face from Fanny’s to that of another of his favorite models,  Alexa Wilding.

According to Hebrew myth, Lilith was Adam’s wife before Eve. Lilith had refused to be a submissive partner, so then Eve was created for Adam.

One of my favorite things about this painting is the mirror on the back wall, which reflects a garden. Eden, perhaps?

As was common with Rossetti, he wrote a poem to accompany this picture:

Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.

For more, visit

Feminism and Women’s studies on Rossetti’s painting, Lilith

Lilith at the Victorian Web

See the original version of Lilith (before the face change)

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