Portraits of Jane Burden Morris

Detail from a portrait drawing of a woman in profile

Jane Burden was the daughter of an Oxford stable worker. When she first met Rossetti and his friends she was just seventeen, poor and with little education. Her unusual appearance was strikingly at odds with any conventional notion of feminine prettiness. Yet from the first she inspired respect or even awe.

Rossetti made drawings of Jane Burden before her marriage to his friend William Morris. However, their relationship, both personal and artistic, entered a new phase after 1865. It was then that the Morrises moved to central London and Jane began to model regularly for Rossetti.

Together, Rossetti and Jane Morris created the compelling image of female beauty that epitomised Rossetti's art when the paintings finally appeared in public in the memorial exhibitions held after his death.

Photographs of Jane Morris

In 1865, Rossetti commissioned a series of photographs of Jane Morris, posed in a marquee in his garden. The photographer was John Robert Parsons, about whom little is known. Although Rossetti also made many drawings of Jane, as he had of Elizabeth Siddal, the use of photography is a sign of the times.

Portrait photography was becoming increasingly popular in the 1860s. The photographs can be related loosely to the later pictures for which Jane modelled. However, none of the poses exactly matches any of Rossetti's paintings. The photographs are probably best regarded as experiments in pose, as well as mementoes of the sitter, rather than as substitutes for preparatory drawings.

A number of the original photographs were bound into an album owned by Jane Morris's daughter May. The album also contains later reprints. The later prints are by Emery Walker, who worked with William Morris on his book designs.