The grave of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s famous muse, model, and mistress, Fanny Cornforth, has finally been discovered.
Her glamorous depiction may be belied by the new facts regarding how her life ended. Fanny was determined to have suffered from dementia and was penniless, confined to the Sussex county asylum. Upon her death at the age of 74, she was buried in a common grave in 1909. History of Art applicants should read further into how the muse influenced the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and how people depicted in art are so often disconnected from the reality of that person’s existence.
Art historian Kirsty Stonell Walker, the biographer of Fanny Cornforth, commented that “Fanny is the patron saint of overlooked women. She is in the background of so many stories about other people, and she seemed finally to have vanished without trace into the shadows.” The decadence and beauty of her life in art is starkly contrasted to quietness and tragedy of her death, and this juxtaposition in art should be considered by English applicants in works of fiction they have read, particularly in the modernist literary tradition.
Fine Art applicants should pay particular attention to Rossetti’s Venus Verticordia; while Fanny famously posed for this picture, one of Rossetti’s most risqué, she was replaced by the face of Alexa Wilding, one of Rossetti’s later mistresses.
While her life was blighted by Rossetti falling out of love, and his subsequent abandonment of her, Fanny won in her own way by opening a gallery displaying Rossetti’s art, which she had taken from his home. History students should consider who has the ownership of art; the creator or the subject.
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