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Art and Images in Psychiatry
November 2007

Beata Beatrix

Author Affiliations

James C.HarrisMD

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(11):1228. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.11.1228

He feeds upon her face by day and night,/And she with true kind eyes looks back on him . . . 

Not as she is, but was when hope shown bright;/Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

—From “In an Artist's Studio,” Christina Rossetti (1856)1(pp796,1136)

Shortly before Elizabeth (Lizzie) Eleanor Siddal's coffin was taken for burial in February 1862, her husband, Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), softly lifted her hair and with tenderness placed a slender volume of his poetry next to her cheek.2,3 Believing that she inspired his poetry, he thought it fitting to bury the only copy of these poems with her. The son of a professor of Italian literature at King's College, London, Rossetti had found his Beatrice in Lizzie Siddal (1829-1862), telling his mentor, Ford Madox Brown, that, like his namesake, 13th-century poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), when he met her his destiny was defined. In 1861, the year after they married, Rossetti dedicated to her his translation of the Florentine poet's Vita Nuova (New Life), which tells the story of Dante Alighieri's meeting Beatrice Portinari, his idealized love for her, and her early death in her 20s. Shortly after Rossetti and Siddal met 10 years earlier, and after she had successfully posed for John Everett Millais's Ophelia,4 he asked her to model exclusively for him. His sister, Christina Rossetti, wrote a poem about them, “In the Artist's Studio” (epigraph), emphasizing his preoccupation with her and the projection of his dreams onto her.

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