The mysterious muse of Pre-Raphaelite artists that challenged racist stereotypes around beauty
Fanny Mathilda Eaton was a model for several well known artists during a time where Black people were not considered beautiful and did not often feature in Western art.
Eaton had worked as a charlady, cleaner, and later a seamstress, but during her 20s, she had found another way of making money. Her thick, kinky hair and “exotic” mixed-race features made her an irresistible model for artists such as Simeon Solomon, Edwin Long, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and many other Pre-Raphaelite artists.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a leader in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, likened Fanny Eaton to Pre-Raphaelite model Jane Morris. Morris was the original Pre-Raphaelite model that embodied the aesthetic artists hoped to capture in their paintings.
Eaton’s likeness hangs today in the galleries at Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Yale Centre for British Art and the Princeton Museum of Art, among others.