Our Pre-Raph Gang

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Character Sketches: The Stunners


Left to right:
Fanny Cornforth, Annie Miller and Jane Morris
...with Top the Wombat.

I was very honored to have the wonderful (and hilarious) Kirsty Walker ask me to contribute a cartoon to the new edition of her book, "Stunner", which is a much-needed biography of Fanny Cornforth-- restoring her dubious reputation in PRB history.
(Um, Fanny's dubious history, not Kirsty's...)
Kirsty's blog is wonderful--highly informative and very funny. http://fannycornforth.blogspot.com/ 

I pulled Fanny out of the above sketch and inked her:

This means that I need to draw a different version of Fanny to add to the Stunner sketch
when I ink that. (Upcoming.)

"Stunner" was a term used by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for their models-- or any other beautiful woman. 
Modeling for artists was looked down upon in Victorian society
 (as was being an actress) and models were  considered to be women of "loose morals." 
 (Probably because many of the women desperately needed the money
and weren't adverse to posing in the nude.)

However, the Brotherhood employed several women who quickly became favorites and muses. Naturally, some of the models also became involved personally with the painters.

Here are the three most well-known stunners (besides Lizzie Siddal)
 who would become part of the growing Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.  (For a beautiful and informative site devoted to the Pre-Raphaelite ladies, please visit Stephanie PiƱa's wonderful Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com/  ).

Fanny Cornforth


"Fanny Cornforth" was actually an alias: her real name was Sarah Cox.
Rossetti spotted her one day and loved her luxuriant hair (which was incredibly long, down
 to her legs when let loose.)

Bocca Bacciata
("The Kissed Mouth")
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  
She was the physical opposite of the thin and willowy Lizzie Siddal,  being quite voluptuous.
A fun-loving woman with a strong Cockney accent and a healthy appetite, she was the bit of brightness in Rossetti's increasingly troubled mental state. His brother, William Michael Rossetti, had a personal vendetta against Fanny, seeing her as an opportunist taking advantage of the later reclusive Gabriel and possibly removing valuables (and artwork) from the premises.


Annie Miller

One of Rossetti's many drawings of  Annie and her bushy hair.
Annie began life in incredibly squalid conditions and she was a barmaid when William "Maniac" Hunt came across her and decided to not only make her his model but also his personal project. He painted her famously in "The Awakening Conscience" (the painting about a reformed
prostitute that beat Rossetti's similar idea to the punch) and arranged for Annie to be educated and given etiquette lessons. (Yes, just like "My Fair Lady.")

Another drawing by Rossetti while Maniac was away...
The Awakening Conscience
by William Holman Hunt.


Hunt went away to the Holy Lands to paint goats (among other things) and had left a list of exactly which of his painter friends Annie was allowed to pose for.
 It was no surprise that Rossetti was NOT on this list. This, however, didn't stop Annie from doing what she wanted and she modeled frequently for Rossetti.

Hunt was enraged and would later break off his engagement to her, but the etiquette lessons had paid off and she married the brother of a viscount.

Jane Morris


Jane Burden lived in Oxford, the daughter of a stableman and domestic servant. She was spotted in the audience at the Drury Lane Theatre by Rossetti and new friend Ned Jones (Edward Burne-Jones) who were in town to paint the Oxford Union Murals. Rossetti needed a model for Guinevere and asked her to to pose for him.


Proserpine
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

While Rossetti was attracted to Jane's unusual dark looks, he was engaged to Lizzie Siddal. It was the best friend of Ned Jones, the wealthy and multi-talented William Morris, who ended up falling in love with Jane and proposing to her...
thus beginning one of the most notorious love
triangles in art history.

After Lizzie's death, Rossetti became increasingly obsessed with Jane and painted what were to become his most well-known works.


And finally we have :
Top the Wombat


No official photo or painting exists of  Top the Wombat, .
but this is a common Australian wombat, just like Top was.


Rossetti had an exotic animal obsession and collected a menagerie at his 
home in Cheyne Walk.
A cartoon by Rossetti of saintly Jane
with an equally saintly wombat.



     Rossetti's favorite of the critters was Top, who
     was named after William Morris (whose nickname was
    "Topsy"-- or "Top" for short). Rossetti thought his pet
     wombat bore a peculiar resemblance to his friend and 
     romantic rival.


       Rossetti unfortunately didn't always take good care of
       his  pets and despite Top being a lovable furball, Top
      didn't live very long. One of the theories about his
      demise was that he chowed down on a box of Rossetti's  
      expensive cigars.

        Nevertheless, Top became the unofficial mascot
                    of the Pre-Raphaelites.



 Coming up next: The Only Male Stunner.

No comments:

Post a Comment