Siddal, Elizabeth

BORN 25 Jul 1829, London: 7 Charles Street, Hatton Garden - DIED 11 Feb 1862, London: 14 Chatham Place
BIRTH NAME Siddall, Elizabeth Eleanor
CAUSE OF DEATH suicide by laudanum overdose
GRAVE LOCATION London: Highgate Cemetery West, Swain's Lane, Highgate

Elizabeth Elarnor Siddal was the daughter of the Charles Crooke Siddall, who ran a cutlery-making business and Elizabeth Eleanor Evans. In 1831 the family moved from Hatton Garden to Southwark.

Lizzie worked as a dressmaker in a shop near Piccadilly, London, when she was - possibly aided by William Allingham - 'discovered' by the painter Walter Deverell, whose model she became. She also worked for William Holman Hunt ("Sylvia") and John Everett Millais ("Ophelia"). For "Ophelia" she floated in a bathtub full of cold water. she didn't complain but she caught pneumonia and her father forced Millais to pay the doctor's bills. She detested Hunt after he and Frederic Stephens had convinced the painter John Tupper for fun that she was Hunt's wife. From 1852 onwards she was more than just a pupil to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whom she had met in 1849: she became his muse as well as his lover. Rossetti was the one who nicknamed her 'Lizzie'. In 1853 he used her as a model for "The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice" (1852).

In 1855 John ruskin became her patron and he paid her 150 pounds a year for the drawings and the painting that she produced. She travelled to Nice and Paris in 1855 to improve her health. In 1857 she exhibited for the first time at the summer exhibition of the preraphaelite Salon at Russel Place, London. Lizzie came from a working family and was criticized by Rossetti's sisters. He didn't dare to introduce her to his parents, but after a long and often difficult engagement they marriedon 23 May 1860 at St Clement's Chuch in Hastings without any family present. She was so frail that she had to be carried to the church. After their marriage they lived in London where she worked on her watercolours and assisted in decorating William Morris' Red House.

Lizzie suffered from depressions and on top of this she gave birth to a stillborn daughter on May 2, 1861. On February 10, 1862 she dined with Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne at the Sabloniere Hotel at Leicester Square. Afterwards Lizzie went home and Rossetti went to the Working Men's Institute where he taught art. When he came home at eleven he found her unconscious from an overdose of laudanum. It was already too late to save her life although she was attended by several doctors during the night. She died on 7:20 in the morning. Her death was ruled an accident by the coroner but she may have left a note that was destroyed by Rossetti on advice of Ford Madox Brown. Lizzie was buried wuth her father-in-law Gabriele Rossetti at Highgate Cemetery and Rossetti buried a handwritten book of with his poems with her.

He painted her on his famous painting "Beate Beatrice" (1864-1870). In 1869 Rossetti wanted his poetry back and he obtained permission for the coffin to be opened. He autorised Charles Howell and the opening of the grave took place in his absence. Together with the volume a handful of red hair emerged from the coffin. The book of poems was disinfected by Dr. Llewelyn Williams and returned to Rossetti. He published it in 1870 as "Poems". Rossetti was told that Lizzie hadn't changed much since her death.

Rossetti re-collected Lizzie's work himself, but until recently her work was always overshadowed by her tragic personal life. In 1991 a solo exhibition of her work took place at the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield.

• Husband: Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (1860-1862, Hastings: St. Clements Church)

Related persons
• has a connection with Deverell, Walter Howell
• was written about by Hunt, Violet
• detested Hunt, William Holman
• worked as a model for Hunt, William Holman
• worked as a model for Millais, John
• detested Miller, Annie
• worked as a model for Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

13/5/1851Ruskin praises Hunt's "Valentine and Sylvia" in The Times. Hunt's painting "Valentine and Sylvia" was exhibited at the The Royal Acadey at that time. Critics like Kingsley and Macauley attacked this work and the work of the Preraphaelites in general. The poet Coventry Patmore asked Ruskin to take action. Ruskin wrote two letters to The Times, praising the work. His only criticism was 'the commonness of feature' and 'the unfortunate type chosen for the face of Sylvia'. The model for Sylvia had been Lizzy Siddal. The painting was sold in November, 1852. [Hunt, William Holman][Ruskin, John]
2/5/1861Lizzie Siddal gives birth to a stillborn daughter. She had married Gabriel Dante Rossetti in 1860 and had been suffering from bad health for a long time. She used a lot of laudanum and brandy to fight her depressions. There the death child didn't come as a surprise but it was still a blow for the parents. Physically Lizzie recovered quickly, but her depressions stayed with her. [Rossetti, Dante Gabriel]
10/2/1862Lizzie Siddal takes a deathly dose of laudanum. She, her husband Gabriel Dante Rosseti and Algernon Swinburne had dined at the Sabloniere Hotel on Leicester Square. After the dinner Rossetti went to Working Men's Institute where he was a teacher and Lizzie went home. When he returned home at 11 pm she was unconscious and the empty laudanum bottle was at the side of her bed. There was a note on her nightgown. Her stomach was pumped but it was too late and she died early in the morning. The note was destroyed by Ford Madox Brown and its contents were never known. [Madox Brown, Ford][Rossetti, Dante Gabriel]
0/6/1872Rossetti misinterprets Browning's "Finfine at the Fair". He had a nervous breakdown on 2 Jun 1872, hallucinated and saw conspirations against himself everywhere. When Robert Browning innocently sent him his new poem "Finfine at the Fair" a few days later, Rossetti read it as an attack on himself. It upset him so much that he had to be taken to the house of Dr. Hake for rest. He had taken a bottle of laudanum with him that he drank entirely that night. Only because of his weight and because he was used to it he survived and escaped the fate of his wife Lizzie Siddal who had died from an overdose of laudanum in 1862. [Rossetti, Dante Gabriel]


'Portrait of Elizabeth Siddal'.
(06 Feb 1855)


The grave of Gabriele Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal at Highgate Cemetery West, London.
Picture by Androom (28 Mar 2016)


The grave of Gabriele Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal at Highgate Cemetery West, London.
Picture by Androom (28 Mar 2016)


• Garnett, Henrietta, Wives and Stunners, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses, MacMillan, London, 2012
• Hawksley, Lucinda, Lizzie Siddal, Face of the Pre-Raphaelites, Walker & Company, New York, 2004
• Holman-Hunt, Diana, My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves, Hamish-Hamilton, London, 1969
• Jones, Kathleen, Learning not to be first, the Life of Christina Rossetti, The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire, 1991
Elizabeth Siddal - Wikipedia

Siddons, Henry

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 06 Jun 2022