APRIL 2014 A hitherto unknown drawing of Fanny Eaton, which must have been executed when she was sitting to Albert Moore, Simeon Solomon and Fred Sandys, has just come to light. MORE SOON I hope
Quite excitingly, a whole lot of new information has been discovered about the Jamaican-born woman who modelled for many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and others in the 1860s. Her distinctive features are seen in Albert Moore's early work here, showing the mother of Sisera; in Simeon Solomon's The Mother of Moses (now in Delaware Art Museum) ; in Rebecca Solomon's The Young Teacher; in Joanna Boyce Wells's study for an intended painting either of the Libyan Sybil or Queen Zenobia; and in a dozen other works.
I put as much information as I had into the catalogue for BLACK VICTORIANS and am thrilled to learn from Brian Eaton, grandson of Fanny's youngest child Frank, who with his wife Mary has been tracing family genealogies, that they have found details of Fanny's mother Matilda Foster later Antwhistle, who settled in Britain with her daughter sometime in the 1840s, and of Fanny's grandmother Bathsheba, born into slavery in Jamaica. This is remarkable new knowledge as information on individuals in that period and those circumstances is always very elusive. Fanny lived until 1924 and had ten children, though only two or three seem to have had descendants.
She was much in demand as a model for dark-skinned female figures of exotic appearance, whether Semitic, Egyptian, Indian or other, and I'm now more convinced that some of her children also feature in the artworks. Look for example at the face of the girl far left here in Millais' Parable of the Pearl of GreatPrice, drawn for Dalziels, and also perhaps that of the crouching child in Madox Brown's Coat of Many Colours.
Rossetti drew Fanny Eaton for a supporting figure in The Beloved, and might just have used one of her daughters in studies for the black child who occupies the foreground in that painting, only to replace her features with that of a much darker African-American boy, to complete the range of racial types depicted.
One of Fanny's daughters, Miriam Cicely, has a descendant who recalls her father speaking of an ancestress who was a beautiful artist's model. So some family knowledge was passed on. I wonder if anywhere there are photographs of her in later life?
In a loosely related but pertinent project, the Legacies of British Slavery, listing details of all those slave-owners who received financial compensation from the government when slavery was abolished in the Caribbean in the 1830s, is launched today; see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/project/