You fellows can’t tell what a stupendously beautiful creature I have found. By Jove! She’s like a queen, magnificently tall, with a lovely figure, a stately neck, and a face of the most delicate and finished modelling: the flow of surface from the temples over the cheek is exactly like the carving of a Phidean goddess…I got my mother to persuade the miraculous creature to sit for me for my Viola in ‘Twelfth Night‘, and to-day I have been trying to paint her; but I have made a mess of my beginning.
--Artist William Holman Hunt describes Elizabeth Siddal
Ophelia (1872), John Everett Millais
Siddal portrays the doomed maiden of Hamlet
Beata - Beatrix, (1872) Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Siddal as Dante's beloved Beatrice. The painting was completed after
Siddal's premature death.
Twelfth Night (1850), Walter Howell Deverell
Siddal (on the left) as cross-dressing Viola
Elizabeth Siddal was just 20 years old and working as an assistant to a milliner when she was first approached by artist Walter Deverell to pose for a painting. Deverell was a student of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who along with John Everett Millais and William Holden Hunt had formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, painting scenes from Shakespeare, the Bible and romantic poetry.
In the decade that followed, she was a model, muse, poet and artist. A tempestuous relationship with Rossetti culminated in their brief marriage. Siddal overdosed on the opiate laudanum at the age of 32.