Visitor Email: Photo of Jane Morris


I have cropped this picture from the 1874 photo of the Burne-Jones and Morris families. It was not a particularly bright sunny day when the picture was taken (better for reducing harsh contrast and bringing out a wider tonal range) and given the photographic equipment of the time, Jane was probably trying to stay still for several seconds. There are many features that are evident in many of the paintings of her. Perhaps she naturally looks severe when concentrating on something or holding a pose, and distortions are simply Rossetti trying to relax her appearance in his images of her. For someone whose obituary credited her with…’..kindliness, the good sense and the girlish sense of fun that remained hers until the end of her life.’ …not much of that is evident in paintings or photos of her.”
Regards and happy new year etc,


I am grateful that John was kind enough to allow me to share his email with other visitors to the site.  John shares a passion for Elizabeth Siddal and the Pre-Raphaelites, and always has wonderful insights and comments to share (I encourage you to read his most recent comments on Beata Beatrix in this post at

3 thoughts on “Visitor Email: Photo of Jane Morris”

  1. Great letter! Jane does tend to look severe in photos–she was quite ill most of her life and I think might have something to do with how she looks in photographs. Rossetti’s paintings seem to have done a much better job capturing the “real” Jane than any of her pictures do.

  2. Also, pain aside, Janey was not particularly convinced of her attractiveness (I read somewhere she had been referred to as ugly, growing up), and being as she was unusually tall, agile, slender and angular-featured for her gender at that time, I suspect she was grateful to Rossetti for finding a feminine charm in her that even she wasn’t sure she possessed. In my experience, people who feel they are not very attractive often have pensive, even dour looks on their faces in photos. We don’t know what her teeth looked like, but if they were good and she had smiled when photographed (a real feat with the posing time involved), it might have lightened up her face tremendously. She was known for laughing and games and mischief, as John touched upon in his e-mail, so no doubt, as Meggie infers, Rossetti got to see a side of Janey we are not privy to in her photogravures.

  3. Personally I don’t think that it is all that instructive to crop Jane’s image from the main photo.
    The ‘big picture’ is of course the Morris and Burne Jones families, most of whom appear to be stiffly posed because they are all having to stay still for a few seconds.
    You could say that her pose was in keeping with the overall mood of the group.
    Love the site by the way.


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