In the Shakespeare play Hamlet, Ophelia is a tragic character who drowns herself after the death of her father and rejection by Hamlet. In 1851, John Everett Millais reproduced Ophelia’s death in a painting that captured the horrific despair that drove her to suicide. For a model, he enlisted Elizabeth Siddal, who modeled for many artists of the time. Siddal was an artist herself, but achieved immortality through the works that depicted her. Although talented, she wasn’t taken seriously as an artist because of her sex.
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And so Siddal did her best as a model because she needed the money, even if that meant spending four months in a bathtub. However, what she had to endure as the model for Millais’ painting of Ophelia caused her to fall gravely ill, and indirectly led to her death in 1862. The painting is now on display at the Tate Gallery in London. When you see it, the melancholy you feel will not be only for the fictional character Ophelia, but also for Elizabeth Siddal, who gave her all for art. -via Strange Company