By Maev Kennedy
It is expected that the painting, portraying Fanny Cornforth as Lilith, will fetch up to £600,000 in Sotheby's auction
The artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a thing about women with long hair – and his first mistress, Fanny Cornforth, had it in abundance. A watercolour portrait coming up for sale at a Sotheby's auction celebrates her beauty, but the final oils version of the scene was her greatest humiliation – when her face was painted out and replaced with that of another model.
“Poor Fanny, it is a story that really makes you feel for her,” Simon Toll, a specialist on Victorian art at Sotheby's, said. “It was unforgivable of Rossetti, but you're a young artist, the patron wants something and you need a bit of money, you do what he asks.”