Millais'sketch for Ophelia

Poet, artist, and wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal provided the model for many Pre-Raphaelite works of art. When she was exhumed in 1869, her golden hair was still bright and appeared to more lush than when she was alive. This incident is said to have provided many of the details of Lucy Westenra in her coffin in Bram Stoker's Dracula, as well as the uncanny golden hair in his story The Secret of the Growing Gold. In this story the hair continues to grow after its owner's death in vengeful pursuit of her murderer.

Siddal joined the Pre-Raphaelites as a model, and encouraged by them took up art and poetry. Her health was always frail, and was worsened by contracting pneumonia after posing for Ophelia lying for hours in cold water. Through Rossetti and Millais, Siddal met Ford Madox Brown, Burne-Jones and Ruskin. The latter bought up all her work and became her patron. Ruskin's close friend and doctor was also physician to the Liddell family and introduced her to Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll.

Self Portrait

Siddal became obsessed with the loss of her stillborn child, and is said to have rocked its empty cradle while warning visitors not to wake the baby. She was pregnant when she died, having taken an overdose of laudanum. Although it was ruled an accidental death, there is reason to believe a suicide note had been suppressed..

One face looks out from all his canvases
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
A saint, an angel; --every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright:
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Christina Rossetti

Gothic Labyrinth
Gothic Labyrinth