Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Your Favourite Fanny: Pencil, Pen and Ink

Hello again, and we're on Day Two of the Fanny Vote, and today I'd like your views on the sketches of Madam Cornforth.  Rossetti was constantly sketching the women he loved, not only the glamorous portraits, but sometimes in more domestic scenes.  There are countless images of Fanny sewing, eating, or sleeping, a still life of his love as she occupied the private corners of his life.  Unlike yesterday when I gave you all the oils of Fanny, I have only a selection of images today, so if you have a favourite that I haven't suggested, feel free to post it here (linking to the Rossetti Archive entry of it, if possible).  Off we go again then...

Female Figure for Found (1854)
Back to the start of Fanny's career and I think this is arguably the picture that Rossetti drew the evening/morning he took Fanny back to his studio and put her head against the wall for 'the calf picture'.  Unlike the more dramatic expression of the finished oil, this woman has a look of exhaustion and sorrow rather than crippling shame.  She is turning away with sadness, a more realistic emotion than in later versions.  It's understandable that she would be sad, whatever the moral stance, if she met again with her lost love, knowing that there would be no chance of reconciliation.  I'd love to know how far the couple worked together on her expression, how much of the scenario he described to her, but her face in this drawing is beautiful and touching.

Sketch for The Blue Bower (1863-5)
From one end of Fanny's career to the other, this is a study for the final oil painting she appeared in, The Blue Bower.  Much is made of why Rossetti stopped using Fanny, and the main thrust of the argument is that she had grown unattractive.  Here is a sketch from that time and her beauty is still very much in evidence in my opinion.  She has a very 'matter-of-fact' expression as if to say 'Of course I'm beautiful! And?' which I think says something of Fanny's character in the 1860s.  The painting was conceived in around 1863, at the pinnacle of Fanny's reign, and she couldn't have been more secure.  I love the fact that Boyce owned this picture and the other sketches done for the oil; he had known her for around 10 years at this point, and he too still found her beautiful.  I like to think this was one of the happiest periods of her life when she was the goddess they all adored.

Fanny Cornforth (1862)
Talking of goddesses, this drawing always reminds me of the story where Rossetti was describing Fanny's finer points to a friend, pointing to her various attributes as she reclined on the sofa.  When he had finished Fanny merely laughed and told him not to be so silly.  She may have looked like a goddess but her feet were firmly placed on the ground.

Fanny Cornforth (1859)
I came to this picture late, discovering it in Maria Benedetti's catalogue of Rossetti's work (bought because I was never going to be able to afford the Surtees volumes).  Part of me finds it hard to imagine it is actually Fanny as it is so different to the rest of his images of her, but there are a couple of other pictures which resemble it, one of which is a pastel I'll feature tomorrow.  Part of me thinks it looks completely unlike Rossetti's normal work, I mean look at the lips!  However, she has the ivory tower of a neck that marks her as a Stunner.  It is a picture that redefines 'delicate', not a word that is usually used to describe Fanny.

Fanny Cornforth (1867)
Again, a picture I wasn't familiar with until recently, this pencil, pen and ink sketch is from after the point when Fanny ceased to be Rossetti's muse.  After 1865 it was thought that any images produced of her were vanity pictures for her to sell, but this seems to be a portrait drawn for a specific purpose.  Possibly a sketch for Monna Vanna (it has the same luxurious, Venetian feel) or a painting that was abandoned in his obsession with Jane Morris, I think this image shows reason to doubt the convenient narrative supplied in some art histories.  As I always say, never stop asking questions.

The Backgammon Players (1861) Edward Burne-Jones
Finally today, here is a sketch by Ned Burne-Jones, done during Fanny's hiatus with Rossetti due to his marriage.  I think Burne-Jones catches Fanny's beauty perfectly, and his level of finish is astonishing.  The Fanny he shows us here is straight from Rossetti: the thick white neck, the folds of fabric and the great tumble of hair.  Her companion is considering the game, but you feel that Fanny is considering the future and another man.

Right then, same drill as yesterday, leave your votes or suggestions below, at The Stunner's Boudoir on Facebook or direct to me at stonellwalker@googlemail.com.  Tomorrow I'll give you the third and last set of images to vote on, those delicious pastels and charming chalks that I always rave about.

See you tomorrow!


  1. Fanny Cornforth, 1862 - the reclining, pensive Mme Récamier, because she looks so wistful and intelligent, and because it's such a beautiful, tender composition...

  2. My instinct is to always vote for Burne-Jones - but in this case my favourite is the 1963 "Blue Bower" sketch which has so much of Fanny's vitality and glorious attitude expressed in it.

  3. and it's 'The Blue Bower' for me too!

  4. Dear Kirsty
    I am torn between the Burne-Jones and the 1862 one where her hair is strewn over the cushion. Both are stunning, but if pushed, I'll go for the 1862 one.
    Best wishes

  5. I like this one with the snood:

  6. I vote for Fanny Cornforth 1859...I think it really shows just how lovely she was. It's so delicately drawn and very Rossetti-esque.

  7. Thank you everyone for the votes so far! Yes, the one with the snood is lovely, again I can almost feel the fireside flicker of light on her skin as he drew this. Beautiful.

  8. I can't seem to paste my favorite sketch here, so I'll give the website instead. My favorite of Fanny.


  9. Definitely Ned's for me, lovely thought the others are. I saw that drawing once and the finish is unbelievably fine.

  10. Torn between The Blue Bower and Ned's beautiful rendering. On this occasion, I'll have to go for the former, I think… for that wonderful expression.

  11. I'm between Ned's and 1862. Maybe Ned's. The dress, her hair, the nature... Yes, Ned's for me.

  12. !862 portrait sketch for me, it's so beautifully simple.

  13. Though all are so beautiful, especially Ned Burne-Jones', I have to go for the 1859 sketch - it is stunning! She definitely was an extremely beautiful woman.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx