An angelic stunner, Lizzie Siddal one-time shop girl, celebrated artists' model and opium addict graces many 19th-century masterworks by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Millais and other pre-Raphaelite painters. In Lizzie Siddal: The Face of the Pre-Raphaelites, writer and scholar Lucinda Hawksley (Charles Dickens' great-great-great granddaughter) provides a compassionate portrait of this muse who was also a talented artist and poet in her own right.
Red-haired, temperamental Siddal was not a typical Victorian beauty, but her face and manner nevertheless lifted her from poverty to become London's society darling. Model, mistress and then wife of Rossetti, she was mentored by him and earned the artistic patronage of John Ruskin. Siddal is most famous, however, for her appearances in the paintings (portrayed both as Ophelia and Beatrice) of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a 19th-century society set up by seven idealistic young men who were passionate about art [and] depressed about the current, very conventional state of the art world. Fine research gives Hawksley's portrait vital tension as she examines Rossetti's milieu, revealing unrest beneath the carefree, bohemian surfaces of the pre-Raphaelites' lives. Exploring the difficult existence of the world's first supermodel,' she captures her subject's erotic, erratic and haunting essence. Despite all the acclaim, happiness eluded Siddal and she died of a drug overdose at 32.