'Fanny Cornforth', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Portrait drawing of a young woman in profile

Brown ink and wash on paper, drawn about 1860, 22.4 x 21.1cm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Bequeathed by John N Bryson 1977

Recent research on the sitter questions her traditional reputation as a Cockney prostitute. She was born Sarah Cox in Steyning, West Sussex and there is no evidence that she ever worked as a prostitute. Nor is it known whether, or at which periods, her relationship with Rossetti was sexual.

Cornforth was, however, one of Rossetti's closest friends from the late 1850s to the end of his life. This drawing presents a quieter view of her than that seen in the many paintings for which modelled.