“Fanny is the patron saint of overlooked women,” Stonell Walker said. “She is in the background of so many stories about other people, and she seemed finally to have vanished without trace into the shadows. But she had her good times, and she had her spirit.’
This story has haunted me for the past few days. The story of Fanny Conforth. Muse and Mistress to Dante Gabriel Rosetti, famous Pre-Raphaelite artist, her beauty is forever immortalised in his paintings. Seen in Galleries across the globe. Admired, studied and loved, how sad to realise that only recently her unmarked grave was found. Died in an asylum, penniless and forgotten, yet we stand before her image and fall in love with her, over and over again.
Nothing special about her background. Humble roots, falling in love so deeply with another that she posed for him, shared her life and gave all of her, regardless of the consequences. His career soared, deemed her fat and from lover to housemaid. Ousted when he died by his family, she ended up in Greylingwell Hospital in Chichester, diagnosed with dementia. And died as a nothing person. Forgotten and alone.
Yet, for a period in her life, she was the muse, the gifted, the one so desired and loved, her image captured by the artist and the world. How many other muses of famous, celebrated artists, sculptors, entrepreneurs, statesmen and politicians fell into the shadows as Fanny did? The inspiration behind the success? Some women just had the ability to inspire creative flow, ideas and solace for the driven. Never to be credited, never to be acknowledged and sadly, to be relegated to infamy, discarded when tapped and slipped into the dark background from whence they came? Never the ordinary to inspire the extraordinary, never the norm, the accepted. These artists seek the different, the unusual, the maverick who ignites the fire of inspiration to create, to capture, to listen and guard the visions of their lives. All these muses, these exceptional women were the wisps behind the desire, and yet so many, like Fanny will never be able to claim the reward. They play the interlude, the passion before the curtain falls and life intercedes once more.
Yet in her demise, her fairy-like sinking toward death, I hope her end was one where, despite the circumstances, she had a smile on her face because she was the ONE in his life. The true soul connection. She became the one eternal.
I guess I am going to her now found grave. To lay a bunch of flowers and remember all the muses that inspired greatness in Art. Perhaps there is a project in this. But when I stand before the paintings of you, it is not the painter but the subject I will think of. He is because of you.
Dear Fanny, you are not forgotten. And you are beautiful, then and forever more. It is your spirit I shall remember.
I acknowledge you. And all the muses …
p/c/ The Guardian. Article based on Guardian