ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Life of Pre-Raphaelite Art Model Elizabeth Siddal

Updated on May 26, 2019
ziyena profile image

An Arts, Literature and History Buff, Humanities Major, Published Indie Writer, Avid Photographer, and World Foodie & Travel Enthusiast

Portrait of Siddal circa 1854.
Portrait of Siddal circa 1854. | Source

Elizabeth Siddal was born in 1829 into a working-class family. Her father had owned and operated a cutlery-making business which provided the family with a little standing in life. There is no documentation that she had ever attended school however hand-written letters attest to the fact that she could read and write, and most likely received her knowledge through homeschooling.

When Elizabeth became of age, she had taken on work through a local milliner, a highly sought-after employment position for a young woman at that time. Be that as it may, fate had intervened yet again with the chance meeting of Will Deverell, an artist who spotted her at the millinery shop and requested that she do a sitting for him. There is a bit of irony in this chance meeting.

Deverell had chosen Siddal based on the fact that he needed a subject to portray Viola as Cesario dressed as a boy in his depiction of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Deverell found Siddal to be ‘plain in appearance’ whereas history had otherwise deemed her as one of the greatest beauties to have ever emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s circle. With art, discernment is the rule to one’s perception, and Deverell despite his much later claim to her beauty – this was his truth at that time.

Regina Cordium circa 1860.
Regina Cordium circa 1860. | Source

The Modeling Years

Though Elizabeth Siddal started her art modeling career sitting for William Deverell, it wasn’t long before she held other artist interests, mainly those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. One artist, in particular, was entirely fascinated with her appearance – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood whom she had met through Deverell.

By 1851, Siddal had started to sit for Rossetti. Right away the young artist and model became romantically involved. Rossetti took “Lizzie” (as she was endearingly referred) under his wing and tutored her, teaching her how to sketch and paint, and in turn, she produced many drawings and watercolors which even caught the eye of a famous art critic, John Ruskin who encouraged and patronized her talent. For the next decade, Siddal became a focal point in Rossetti’s life. Consumed and possessive with his muse, Rossetti had made it a rule that she was no longer allowed to sit for any other artist as long as she was with him. The demand was almost hypocritical in so much as Rosetti himself had often used other models and even entertained dalliances here and there. Even still, after a long anticipated wait for Siddall, they had eventually married at the behest of her ill health.

Some of Rossetti’s most significant achievements in art featured Siddal, especially the much studied Beata Beatrice, a memoriam, which not only seized the epitome of Pre-Raphaelite beauty but held an uncanny spiritual significance as well.

Beata Beatrix circa c. 1864–1870
Beata Beatrix circa c. 1864–1870 | Source

The Final Years

It wasn’t until after their nuptials when Siddal started to fall out of favor with her artist husband. Even though she remained a faithful wife, he turned his attention and creativity and inspiration toward other models, younger and much healthier than she – art models such as her rival, the rumored coquette Annie Miller.

Rossetti’s unfaithfulness might have been one of the reasonings for Siddal’s depression, her addiction to opioids, and various conditions that led to a weakening of her system, causing frail health and her eventual demise.

Elizabeth Siddal quietly died of a Laudnum overdose in February of 1862. Though reported as an accidental death, historians suggest that Rossetti might have found a suicide note yet withheld the information so that he could keep his family free of scandal and give his wife a proper Christian burial. Rossetti never fully recovered from the guilt that he suffered over her death and carried the tragedy with him for the rest of his life.

Cited Sources & Works

  • Stephanie Pina. Exploring Elizabeth Siddal: Letters Written By Elizabeth Siddal (
  • Daly, Gay (1989). Pre-Raphaelites in Love, New York: Ticknor & Fields.
  • Surtees, Virginia (1991). Rossetti’s Portraits of Elizabeth Siddall, Aldershot: Scolar Press


Submit a Comment
  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    12 months ago from UK

    I appreciate the way that your articles can be linked together. It is interesting to read this shortly after I have read your hub on Rossetti.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)