Cornforth, Fanny

MODEL (ENGLAND)
BORN 3 Jan 1835, Steyning, Sussex - DIED 24 Feb 1909, Chichester: Graylingwell Hospital
REAL NAME Cox, Sarah
GRAVE LOCATION Chichester, West Sussex: Chichester District Cemetery, Church Road (plot 133/23, corner of graveyard beyond the war memorial, common grave)

Fanny Cornforth moved from the country to London and it has often been written that she became a prostitute there. However, there seems to be no evidence for this assertion.

She reportedly first attracted his attention at Cremhorne Gardens by cracking peanuts with her teeth and throwing them at him around 1856. He asked her to model for him and she became his model as well as his mistress. Fanny lived the life of a Bohemian and could often be found in the company of artists and was painted by Edward Burne-Jones and John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope.

Around the time Rossetti married Lizzie Siddal, she married Timothy Hughes, a mechanical engineer. Apparantly they split up soon, since after Lizzie's death she resumed relations with Rossetti and moved in as his housekeeper. Most of his friends didn't like her because she was uneducated.

She was a fleshy woman and the Virgin's body on Rossetti's "The Seed of David" was based upon hers. She was also the model for his paintings "Fazio's Mistress", "Bocca Baciata", "Lady Lilith" and "The Blue Bower". Edward Burne-Jones depicted her in "Sidonia von Bork" and "'Merlin and NimuŽ".

In 1867 Rossetti became obsessed with Jane Morris. Fanny acted as his housekeeper for many years and they remained on friendly terms until the end of his life. He used to call her his 'dear elephant'. In 1879 she left him to marry John Schott and she seems to have taken some of his belongings with her. Together with her husband she ran The Rose Tavern in Jermyn Street, London. After Rosetti's death in 1882 she sold the works by him that she owned.

Her busband died in 1891 and she lived with her stepson Frederick and Samuel Bancroft visited her to buy Rossetti memorabilia. After Frederick died in 1898 she moved to her husband's family in Sussex.

After her mental condition detoriated she was admitted to West Sussex County Lunatic Asylum in 1907. She died in 1909 and only in 2015 Kirsty Stonell Walker discovered her grave location in Chichester. She had done much to rescue Fanny from oblivion by publishing "Stunner: The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth" in 2006. A revised edition was published in 2012.

Related persons
• worked as a model for Burne-Jones, Edward Coley
• was a friend of Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• worked as a model for Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• worked as a model for Spencer-Stanhope, John Roddam

Sources
Fanny Cornforth - Wikipedia
Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Olga's Gallery


Corot, Jean-Baptiste Camille

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 22 Jan 2017