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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Intro to the pre-Raphaelites, January 12, 2007
This review is from: Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites (Hardcover)
What I knew of the Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted of a really fuzzy memory of what I'd read of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poetry in my undergrad Victorian survey course. Not exactly a fount of knowledge, but I at least vaguely knew who they were. The art's identifiable, of course. It's very pretty and I've always liked it. So I went into this book with only the vaguest idea about the subject matter.

Lizzie Siddal was a girl plucked from a hat shop and turned into a supermodel. She was the love of poet/artist/Renaissance man Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a very naughty boy who liked the ladies in a big way. He loved her, it seems pretty apparent, but he spent all of their relationship promising to marry her then reneging. Not exactly honorable, but I don't really think we have all the details on that. There's not a lot of surviving correspondence, and relationships are way more complicated than anyone knows save the two principles. Dante did have the roving eye, but Lizzie had a lot of issues herself. She couldn't have been easy to live with.

Lizzie seemed inclined toward being neurotic, and more than once, when she found she wasn't getting her way she'd starve herself until Dante caved in and did whatever it was she wanted. Except marry her, at least until after she'd really almost died. Then he finally married her, she got pregnant and lost the baby, and it was a downhill slide until her eventual suicide.

It's generally well known that Rossetti buried his last book of poetry with Lizzie, declaring he'd never write again, and then several years later he thought better of that and had a friend of his retrieve the book. The legend goes that Lizzie still looked perfect and her flowing, red hair filled the coffin, but I'm thinking it wasn't nearly that pretty.

Not nearly.

Still, it's a pretty legend, hearts and flowers, let's go with it.

Lucinda Hawksley's written a very good history of the relationship between Lizzie and Dante, and if I had more time I'd explore more about the pre-Raphaelites. Until then, I'm at least content knowing more about the general subject. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic at all. It's detailed enough without going off on too many tangents.
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Location: Chicago, IL USA

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