Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Lady Lilith
1866–68, 1872–73, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
Lady Lilith is an oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti first painted in 1866–68 using his mistress Fanny Cornforth as the model, then altered in 1872–73 to show the face of Alexa Wilding. The subject is Lilith, who was, according to ancient Judaic myth, “the first wife of Adam” and is associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. She is shown as a “powerful and evil temptress” and as “an iconic, Amazon-like female with long, flowing hair.”
Symbols appearing in the painting allude to the “femme fatale” reputation of the Romantic Lilith: poppies (death and cold) and white roses (sterile passion).
Rossetti wrote in 1870: “Lady [Lilith]…represents a Modern Lilith combing out her abundant golden hair and gazing on herself in the glass with that self-absorption by whose strange fascination such natures draw others within their own circle.”
This is in accordance with Jewish folk tradition, which associates Lilith both with long hair (a symbol of dangerous feminine seductive power in both Jewish and Islamic cultures), and with possessing women by entering them through mirrors