Historical Reads: Lizzie Siddal - Victorian Supermodel


At Scandalous Women, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon relates the story of Lizzie Siddal, the first of the beautiful models painted by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and lover of the artist Dante Gabriele Rossetti. To quote:

But there was once another woman, during the Victorian era, which also could be said to be deserving of the title supermodel. Her name was Lizzie Siddal, and she was the face of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. You may not know her name but you know her face, floating down the river in John Everett Millais’s painting of Ophelia, or in any number of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s works.

Lizzie Siddal was born Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall on July 25, 1829. Her parents were lower middle class but with pretensions to the middle class. Like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lizzie’s father believed that he was the rightful owner of a successful couching inn called Crossdaggers in Derbyshire. Unfortunately he spent a fortune trying to unsuccessfully prove it. Like something out of a Dickens novel, the case dragged on for years. Finally, Lizzie’s sister Clara threw all the relevant documents on the fire one night to finally end the disasterous lawsuit. Still Lizzie and her brothers and sisters were raised with the knowledge that they were somebody, despite the fact that their father made his living making and running a cutlery business.


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