Mrs. Rossetti & the Pre-Raphaelites On this day in 1862 Elizabeth Siddal died at the age of thirty-two, almost certainly a suicide. Husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti was stirred by grief, guilt and his romantic temperament to the last-minute gesture of placing the only copies of many of his poems in his wife's coffin; seven years later, in one of the most notorious second-thoughts of love and literature, Rossetti retrieved and published the poems.
"She was discovered by Walter Deverell in a milliner's shop in 1850. At the time he was searching for a model for Voila in his painting Twelfth Night. Later he told William Holman Hunt, 'By Jove! she's like a queen, magnificently tall, with a lovely figure, a stately neck, and a face of the most delicate modelling; the flow of surface from the temples over the cheek is exactly like the carving of a Pheidean goddess. Wait a minute! I haven't done; she has grey eyes, and her hair is like dazzling copper, and shimmers with lustre as she waves it down. And now, where do you think I lighted on this paragon of beauty? Why, in a milliner's back workroom where I went out with my mother shopping. Having nothing to amuse me, while the woman was tempting my mother with something, I peered over the blind of a glass door at the back of the shop, and there was this unexpected jewel.'"