1866-1870. Oil on canvas. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, UK. Read Note.
Sibylla Palmifera 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