Elizabeth Siddal is remembered as a Pre-Raphaelite supermodel and the muse and wife of Gabriel Rossetti. She is cast as a tragic heroine much like the Ophelia she modelled in the renowned Millais painting. But Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story overturns this myth. ‘Lizzie’ is presented as an aspirational and independent woman who knew what she wanted and was not afraid to let it be known.
With extraordinary stories, including previously undiscovered details of Siddal’s journeys across the UK and to the south of France, Jan Marsh reclaims Siddal’s narrative from the historical record. She brings new perspective to the post-natal, mental trauma Elizabeth suffered after a stillbirth. Furthermore, she casts new light on the renowned story of Siddal’s grave being exhumed for Rossetti’s poems.
Jan Marsh explores the finer, little known details of Siddal’s life, including her four months at art school in Sheffield, which Rossetti’s brother always denied. In addition to this, few will know how Siddal was often regarded as difficult and ungrateful.
Historical record tends to forget or misremember women, but with Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story, Jan Marsh forces us to take a closer look and see a very different picture. Siddal was not passive and lacking in agency, she was a woman with a strong mind, flourishing career and an admirable talent.