Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Jamacian born Fanny Eaton was one of the most influential muses in the Pre-Raphaelite movement and helped challenge the idealised standards of beauty in Victorian society.
On the 18th November Google Doodle celebrated Jamaican-British artist muse Fanny Eaton. Eaton modelled throughout the 1860s for a variety of notable English painters in work that helped redefine Victorian standards of beauty and diversity. On this day in 1874, it is recorded that Eaton sat for life classes at the Royal Academy of London, sessions which were integral to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Fanny Eaton was born Fanny Matilda Antwistle in Surrey, Jamaica on July 13, 1835. She moved with her mother to Britain during the 1840s, towards the beginning of the Victorian Era. In her 20s, she began modelling for portrait painters at the Royal Academy of London, and she soon captured the attention of a secret society of rising young artists called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Eaton made her public debut in Simeon Soloman’s painting The Mother of Moses, which was exhibited in 1860 at the Royal Academy. Over the following decade, she was featured by a variety of prominent Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and Rebecca Soloman. The group held Eaton up as a model of ideal beauty and featured her centrally at a time when Black individuals were significantly underrepresented, and often negatively represented, in Victorian art.
Eaton’s modeling career lasted through much of the decade, and Millais’ 1867 work Jephthah is believed to feature her last known appearance in a painting.
Thank you Fanny Eaton, for helping move artistic inclusion forward.