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“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"Lady Lilith" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts Lilith, who is a figure from Jewish mythology and is portrayed as an iconic, Amazon-like female with long, flowing hair.

The name ‘Lilith’ is derived from the Babylonian Talmud. It refers to a dangerous demon of the night, associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children.

The character is thought to have been derived from the stories of female demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion, found in the cuneiform texts of Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, and Babylonia.

Rossetti first painted this artwork using Fanny Cornforth as the model; he then altered the painting to show the face of another model, Alexa Wilding.

Rossetti overpainted Cornforth’s face, after the success of his picture of “Sibylla Palmifera,” in which Wilding is the model and because he was starting a relationship with Fanny Cornforth.

“Lady Lilith” represents the body’s beauty, and “Sibylla Palmifera” represents the soul’s beauty, according to Rossetti’s sonnet.

Fanny Cornforth (1835 – 1909) became Rossetti’s model and mistress. In Rossetti’s paintings, the figures modeled by Fanny Cornforth are generally voluptuous, differing from those of his other models.

"Sibylla Palmifera" by Rossetti,

“Sibylla Palmifera” by Rossetti, representing the soul’s beauty

A replica of Lady Lilith, painted by Rossetti in watercolor, which shows the face of Cornforth, is at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It has a verse from Goethe’s Faust as translated by Shelley on a label attached by Rossetti to its frame:

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her locks,
And when she twines them round a young man’s neck
she will not ever set him free again.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882) was a British poet, illustrator, painter, and translator, who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.

Its sensuality and its medieval revivalism characterized Rossetti’s art. Rossetti’s personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses.


The Pre-Raphaelites was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848.

The group intended to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by the artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite.”

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colors, and complex compositions of Pre-Raphaelite Italian art.

The Pre-Raphaelites focused on painting subjects from modern life, and literature often used historical costumes for accuracy.

They painted directly from nature itself, as accurately as possible, and with intense attention to detail.

The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their art, and published a periodical to promote their ideas.

A later, medieval influence extended the movement’s power into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse.

Lady Lilith

  • Title:                  Lady Lilith
  • Artist:                Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Date:                 1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Style:                 Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:      97.8 × 85.1 cm (38.5 × 33.5 in)
  • Museum:           Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Virtual Tour of Pre-Raphaelite Artists

John Everett Millais

William Holman Hunt

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John William Waterhouse

Marie Spartali Stillman

Ford Madox Brown

Henry Holiday

Edward Burne-Jones

Frederick Sandys

Frank Dicksee

John Collier

William Dyce

Lady Lilith By Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Body’s Beauty – Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lady Lilith


“Art is not a study of positive reality; it is the seeking for ideal truth.”
– John Ruskin


Photo Credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, GFDL ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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