The Women Of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Michael Prodger at The New Statesman:

In 1849 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the 21-year-old poet-artist and founder member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, met a milliner’s assistant named Elizabeth Siddal. She was the daughter of a cutlery maker and had artistic aspirations. He was from a highly cultured Anglo-Italian family – his father was a Dante scholar, one of his mother’s brothers was John William Polidori, Lord Byron’s doctor and author of the first vampire story. By 1852 Siddal had become Rossetti’s pupil, lover and primary model and he was possessive enough to stop her sitting for other painters in the Pre-Raphaelite circle. There was a degree of transmutation in the relationship, too: at times Lizzie was more than flesh and blood, personifying his idea of perfect womanhood that justified a love that transgressed social station.

That sort of veneration is inherently fragile and although the pair married in 1860 their liaison was far from tranquil. He painted and drew her obsessively but he also feared his parents’ disapproval and refused to introduce Lizzie to them.

more here.