Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #9)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #10)

Lady Clare. (1857). Signed and dated “EES/57”. Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

The literary reference for this painting was Tennyson’s Lady Clare from Poems (1842). Siddal may have first seen the poem in a newspaper, and her interest in the poet eventually led her, Millais, Hunt, Rossetti, and others to illustrate his 1857 edition of Poems. Siddal’s designs included St Cecilia from The Palace of Art and Jephtha’s Daughter from A Dream of Fair Women. Lady Clare was the only painting completed as it was worked up from studies, a typical technique of Pre-Raphaelite artists in the 1850s (Marsh and Nunn 116).

In the story, the natural mother of the heroine begs her daughter to conceal her humble origins so Lord Ronald won’t withdraw his offer of marriage. Lady Clare refuses:
“”If I’m a beggar born”, she said,
“I will speak it out, for I dare not lie.
Pull off, pull off the brooch of gold
And fling the diamond necklace by”.

“Nay now, my child,” said Alice the nurse,
“But keep the secret all ye can.”
She said, “Not so; but I will know
If there be any faith in man.””
(Marsh and Nunn 116).

There may be a personal connection to this poem and watercolor for Siddal. A fear of being rejected for marriage by D.G. Rossetti may have been a lingering fear due to their class difference (Marsh and Nunn 116). The fear was unnecessary though, as they married in spring of 1860 (Prettejohn 191). The poem concludes happily too, as Lord Ronald does not reject his bride due to her lower class standing (Marsh and Nunn 116).

The Victorian interests in medieval art and architecture is evident here. The viewer catches a glimpse of the castle’s stairway through the partially opened door and the stained glass window captures the viewer’s attention with its bright colors. The stained glass references the Judgement of Solomon and when a true mother reveals herself (Marsh and Nunn 116).

Siddal studied Gothic art and medieval manuscripts, likely at John Ruskin’s house or the British Library. Because of this, there is an awkwardness to her figures, perspective, and compositions (Prettejohn 190). In this particular watercolor, Lady Clare’s attire is derived from manuscripts viewed at the British Museum (Marsh and Nunn 116).

In 1984, the Tate Gallery included this piece in its exhibition and it was critically discussed for its gender imagery, inter-texuality, and Pre-Raphaelite compositional practice (Marsh and Nunn 116).

Works Cited

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal”. Pre-Raphaelite Art. 4 Mar. 2009. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. http://preraphaelitepaintings.blogspot.com/2009/03/elizabeth-eleanor-siddal-lady-clare.html

Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.

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Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #8)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #9)

Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear (c.1856-59). Watercolor on paper. Tate Gallery.

Clerk Saunders, Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear, and other works by Siddal helped to redirect the Pre-Raphaelite movement to a medieval theme during the second half of the 1850s (Prettejohn 183). Medieval themes included scenes of chivalry, the knight’s quest, and courtly love (Prettejohn 185). Siddal also led the way for developing distinctive Pre-Raphaelite themes of sorcery, enchantment, and spell-casting.  The distant era of daring deeds, supernatural appearances, and star-crossed lovers were also attractive concepts (Prettejohn 184-185).

She was an avid reader, inspired by romantic poetry of John Keats and William Wordsworth, as well as more recent poems by Alfred Tennyson and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She was fascinated by border ballads, more specifically “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border” complied by Walter Scott (which was the literary reference for Clerk Saunders too) (Prettejohn 184-185).

Siddal was also inspired to write poetry; she sketched an illustration for The Lass of Lochroyan. The heroine was portrayed as an outcast who follows the enchantment of her lover, and is then branded as a witch (Prettejohn 185).

Now, back to Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear.
Within the painting, the lady assists the knight with his pennant before he heads out for combat. To his left, his horse and squire await in the doorway. This subject was common for the time it was painted; see Rossettie’s Before the Battle (MFA, Boston), Millais’ At the Tournament (Ashmolean), and Burnes-Jones The Knight’s Farewell (Ashmolean). This period was marked with a desire for intensely worked court scenes (Marsh and Nunn 117).

D.G. Rossetti. "Before the Battle".

D.G. Rossetti. Before the Battle.


Edward Burne-Jones. The Knight’s Farewell.

The ultimate inspiration for all of these works was Maclise’s “Spirit of Chivalry” (1845-7) for the Palace of Westminister and was widely distributed through engravings (Marsh and Nunn 117). In Siddal’s watercolor, she treats the scene in almost a domestic way. The knight fiddles with his hammer and nail and the lady awkwardly embraces him (Marsh and Nunn 117). This gives me two reactions; one where they are all about business and there isn’t emotion because they are focusing on the task at hand. On the other hand, I could also see it as the lady showing her support and affection in what must be a scene filled with tension. The knight is about to go into battle and it is uncertain if he will survive.  In comparison to Burne-Jones The Knight’s Farewell, Siddal’s painting lacks the passionate embrace between lady and knight.

Lady Affixing Pennant to a Knight's Spear circa 1856 by Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal 1829-1862

Elizabeth Siddal.  Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear.

The red of the pennant symbolizes Love and fills in the space between the two figures. Even though the scene is in an enclosed space, it has a quality of openness because of the open window and door, allowing the viewer’s eye to travel outside. The distant hills may be inspired from the Peak District, where Siddal visited in 1857/8 (Marsh and Nunn 117).

Philip Burne-Jones owned the work in 1904. The Tate Gallery then purchased it in 1912 and acquired it in 1917. Unlike most of Siddal’s other work, this painting was given a descriptive title for convenience, and not one with a literary or poetic one (Marsh and Nunn 118).

Works Cited

“Daniel Maclise Paintings”. Teppai Art. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6DH938zOHGc/UJ5xJ2SB-AI/AAAAAAAAGmw/0mc_l9Er6Zk/s1600/Maclise_Daniel_The_Spirit_Of_Chivalry.jpg

“Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Spear”. Tate. Aug. 2004. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. Web. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/siddal-lady-affixing-pennant-to-a-knights-spear-n03202

Marsh, Jan, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. “Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists”. London, Thames and Hudson: 1997. Print.

“Pre-Raphaelites: The Poetry of Drawings”.  The Telegraph. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/8296065/Pre-Raphaelites-The-Poetry-of-Drawing.html?image=7

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.

“Rossetti, Dante Gabrielle”. All Art Biz. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. http://allart.biz/photos/image/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_55_Before_the_Battle.html#!/exjun_

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #4)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #5)

Photo credit: Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Regina Cordium by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 1860.
Oil on panel. Dimensions: 10 x 8 in.
Exhibition History: New Gallery, 1897 (no.61); R.A., 1973 (no.300); Tate, 1984 (no.114) (Regina).

After modeling for Millais’ Ophelia, she sat solely for Dante Gabrielle Rossetti who rapidly fell in love with her, and inspired many of his poems and paintings at this time (Elizabeth).

John Ruskin referred to Siddal as Rossetti’s “pupil”, and in 1856, Frank Maddox Brown insists that she is only his pupil and not his fiancé (Chapman and Meacock 80; 97). On May 23rd 1860, Siddal and Rossetti are finally married after several delays due to her ill health. Sadly, neither family nor friends are present for the occasion (Chapman and Meacock 127).

In September 1860, she models for Rossetti’s Regina Cordium (pictured), a year and a half before her death (Chapman and Meacock 129; Elizabeth).

In Reginan Cordium, Siddal’s features are once again present, but they have Rossetti’s artistic stylization applied. Rossetti gives his women a solid and slightly husky appearance. I particularly like how he has treated her hair. It has a thick and luxurious quality that is further enhanced by the deep crimson red tone.

Rossetti has also chosen to portray Siddal with rosy pink cheeks and full sensual lips. Like many other works where she sat as the model, she shows very little expression and does not meet the viewer’s eyes. As in Deverell’s Twelfth Night, she is posed holding a flower. She also has a red, beaded necklace with a heart, and I’m assuming this is Rossetti showing his love for Siddal. It is interesting that in Deverell’s Twelfth Night, Siddal was also dressed in red (it may be nothing though, as Pre-Raphaelite artists loved to use bright colors)!

Works Cited

Chapman, Alison, and Joanna Meacock. A Rossetti Family Chronology. Great Britian, Palgrave Macmillan: 2007. Print.

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1834-1862)”. The Victorian Web. 16 Sep. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/siddal/index.html

“Regina Cordium”. Rossetti Archive. 2008. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s120.rap.html

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #3)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #4)

John Everett Millais. Ophelia. 1852. Oil on canvas. 762 x 1118 mm. Tate Brtitain, London. Art, Archaeology and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives).

Siddal also modeled for Millais’s Ophelia. After posing as Ophelia in a basin of tepid water during the chilly winter months, her health deteriorated, and illness plagued her for the rest of her short life (Elizabeth).

In this painting Siddal is portrayed in death, yet she is still beautiful. The viewer is immediately drawn to her face as her porcelain skin contrasts with the dark water that flows around her form. If her eyes were shut (and we didn’t see the rest of her body), the expression on her face gives off the appearance that she is peacefully sleeping.

Millais has kept Siddal’s familiar red hair, however it is toned down in this painting. I believe he wanted the emphasis to be on her deathly pale skin. By blending her hair into the shadows of the water, it also adds a touch of soberness and reinforces the reality that she is no longer alive. Continuing on this note, her dress is also very pale, and the only color comes from what still has life, which are the plants.

After learning more about Siddal and her early death, this painting is fitting for her actual life. There is a beauty to Ophelia and the viewer feels sadness that her life was cut short, paralleling the abrupt death of Siddal, who I believe had much art and poetry left to produce.  If anyone else has anything to add, please feel free to do so!  I would love to get individual reactions and extra knowledge from my readers!

Works Cited

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1834-1862)”. The Victorian Web. 16 Sep. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/siddal/index.html

“Rosetti’s Other Woman: The Silent Contribution of Models and Muses.” Blue-Stocking. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. http://blue-stocking.org.uk/2011/03/01/rosetti’s-other-woman-the-silent-contribution-of-models-and-muses/ 

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #2)

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #2)

In the early 1850’s, Walter Howell Deverell (1827-1854) asked Siddal to model for Viola in his Twelfth Night (pictured; detail of left figure). Her tall physique, porcelain skin, and beautiful coppery-red hair inspired other Pre-Raphaelite artists to use her as a model as well (Elizabeth; Walter).

In Deverell’s work, we get a glimpse of Siddal’s fiery red hair that frames her delicate features. One can almost feel the smoothness of her fine tresses as they glint with copper, shimmering in the light and ending in curly tendrils that softly brush her neck.

There is a liveliness to her pale skin. A faint, rosy blush canvases her cheeks and spreads across her nose. Her lips are warmly tinted and she is clothed in a brilliant, red silk or satin dress that catches the light with luster.

I get a sense of passion from her attire and how Deverell has painted her with such vitality. However, her expression is very guarded or bland in comparison. There is a look of slight boredom or uncertainty on her face. Not knowing the story behind this work I can only make assumptions to what is happening within the work. Eventually, I would love to have a post on Deverell’s Twelfth Night, so check back in!

Works Cited

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1834-1862)”. The Victorian Web. 16 Sep. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/

“Walter Deverell”. ArtStor. ArtStor, Inc., 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. http://www.artstor.org.

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Siddal Post #1)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, 1854, Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington, DE

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, 1854, Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington, DE

Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal was an intriguing Pre-Raphaelite artist who produced a variety of works, including poetry, drawings, and paintings (mainly watercolor, but she dabbled in oil too (Prettejohn 185, 189).


Siddal’s birth is debatable; some place it at 1829, while others in 1834 (Elizabeth; Prettejohn 183). Her death occurred on February 11th, 1862 of a laudanum overdose, a type of opiate to relieve pain. After being found unconscious, doctors pumped her stomach to no avail (Chapman and Meacock 144). Her early death points to suicide (in 1949, Helen Rossetti Angeli claims that Siddal left a suicide note), and she likely had a laudanum addiction too (Elizabeth; Chapman and Meacock 144).


The watercolor Miss Siddal (pictured) by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti is one of the many works he produced of her; he obsessively sketched Siddal’s features throughout the 1850’s until her death in 1862 (Chapman and Meacock 59; Rossetti).
Look for more exciting information on Siddal in my next post!

Works Cited
Chapman, Alison, and Joanna Meacock. A Rossetti Family Chronology. Great Britian, Palgrave Macmillan: 2007. Print.

“Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1834-1862)”. The Victorian Web. 16 Sep. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/siddal/index.html.

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. New York, Cambridge University Press: 2012. Print.

“Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription” Rossetti Archive.  2008.  Web. 5 Mar. 2013.  http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/nd497.r8.m33.rad.html#A.R37.1.

(Image from: http://artseverydayliving.com/blog/2012/04/rossetti/)