Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
1866-1870. Oil on canvas. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, UK. More. [Order a Print]
was painted with the idea of contrasting with the picture of Lady Lilith, the legendary first wife of Adam and a personification of lust in Jewish folklore. Sibylla Palmifera represented ‘Soul’s Beauty’, the title of a sonnet he wrote to accompany the painting. The modestly dressed Sibylla sits in a temple surrounded by the emblems of Love, Death and Mystery, the Cupid, the skull and the sphinx. In contrast, Lilith admires herself in a mirror, the attribute of vanity. The initial contrast between the pictures, posed by the sensuous Fanny Cornforth and demure Alexa Wilding respectively, was very marked, but in 1872-3 Rossetti replaced Fanny’s head with the head of Alexa at the request of a buyer, and destroyed the original concept