Fanny Cornforth

Fanny Cornforth

Fanny Cornforth (c. 1835 – c. 1906) [The dates of birth and death are uncertain. Jan Marsh discusses the topic at some length in "Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood", pp 139-40, 353, 377, 397.] was an English maidservant who became a model and mistress to Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A member of the lower working class of English society, Cornforth performed the duties of housekeeper for Rossetti.

In Rossetti's paintings, Fanny Cornforth appears as a fleshy blonde, in contrast to his more ethereal treatments of his other models, Jane Morris and Elizabeth Siddal.


She was born in the small Sussex town of Steyning.

Cornforth met Rossetti in 1858, and became his model and mistress in the absence of Elizabeth Siddal. Rossetti married Siddal when she returned in 1860, under the impression that she was dying. Many biographers presume that Siddal disliked Cornforth, but there is no actual proof that Siddal even knew of her existence. In response, Cornforth married mechanic Timothy Hughes, but the relationship was short-lived. After Siddal's death in 1862, Cornforth moved in with the newly-widowed Rossetti as his housekeeper. The affair between Rossetti and Cornforth would last until Rossetti's own death. For much of this time Rossetti was engaged in an off-and-on affair with Jane Morris, but because she was married to his companion, William Morris, the relationship was not made public.

His relationship with Cornforth, however, was. Cornforth came from the lower/rural working class of English society. Her coarse accent (possibly assumed for comedic value as she actually was born and raised in the countryside) and presumed lack of education often shocked Rossetti's friends and family. Many of them never fully accepted her and at times they pressured Rossetti to end the affair.

Over the course of their relationship, Cornforth gained weight. Much has been made of this by biographers, but the growing girths of both Rossetti and Cornforth was a mutual joke between them. His pet name for her was "My Dear Elephant" and she called him "Rhino". When they were apart, he drew cartoons of elephants for her and sent them to her.

Paintings of Fanny Cornforth

Those in major galleries include:
* "Bocca Baciata", by Rossetti (1859)
* "Lucrezia Borgia", by Rossetti (1861)However, she sat for at least 60 in all by Rossetti, some of them oils, some watercolors, some pastels or in pencil. The [ Rossetti Archive] has images of a large proportion of these.

Notes and References


* cite book
last = Daly
first = Gay
title = Pre-Raphaelites in Love
year = 1989
publisher = Ticknor & Fields
location = New York
id =

* cite book
last = Marsh
first = Jan
title = The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood
year = 1995
publisher = Quartet Books
location = UK
id =

* cite book
last = Stonell Walker
first = Kirsty
title = Stunner : The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth
year = 2006
publisher = Lulu Publishing
location = USA
id =

* cite book
last = Drewery
first = Anne
title = Re-presenting Fanny Cornforth: The makings of an historical identity
year = 2001
publisher = With Julian Moore & Christopher Whittick, in "The British Art Journal" 2001:3
location = UK
id =

External links

* [ Center for Whistler Studies]
* [ Rossetti Archive]

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