Transgressive Fashion in the Victorian Era
Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Elizabeth Siddal, artist, poet, and wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. To honour this, events were held at the gorgeous Highgate Cemetary where she is buried, notably talks by Jane Marsh and Lucinda Hawksley. I would have loved to attend, but alas, I am in the PhD death throes. However, my friend Verity Holloway (a brilliant young scholar in her own right, not to mention more than a little bit of a Stunner) was fortunate enough to be there, and wrote a lovely review and reflection of the event.
Lizzie plays a key role in my research, and was one of the more interesting items to pursue. Sadly I am lacking in time to share more about this now, but I’ll say this: like many before me, I have learned that the myth from the canvases was not the woman. She was talented, witty, shrewd, and likely no shrinking violet. No one recognised this better than Rossetti’s own sister, Christina, and I’ll be a bit cliché and post her famous poem on the subject here:
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.