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A man lifting a fallen woman from the ground

Oil on canvas, probably begun 1859, continued at intervals but never finished, 91.4 x 80cm, Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935

In a London street at dawn, a country girl, now a prostitute, is recognised by her former suitor, a countryman who has come to London to bring a calf to market. The girl's plight is paralleled in that of the calf, an innocent animal trapped and on its way to be sold. But the picture is ambiguous: is the prostitute rejecting salvation or is she accepting it; or is she repentant but unable to escape her fate, like the calf?

This is Rossetti's only modern urban life subject. He changed the head of the prostitute, originally from an unknown woman, to portray a favourite model, Fanny Cornforth, but he never completed the picture. He encountered many difficulties with perspective, drawing and technique. His friend Ford Maddox Brown recorded Rossetti as taking great pains over the painting of the calf: 'getting on slowly.he paints it in all like Albert Durer hair by hair & seems incapable of any breadth.From want of habit I see nature bothers him.'

Rossetti's assistants Henry Treffry Dunn and Frederic Shields helped him with parts of it and he himself worked on it as late as 1881. It was still unfinished at his death. Further work may have been done on it by Dunn and Burne-Jones.