Graylingwell Hospital case book provides a fascinating insight into the life of Pre-Raphaelite muse and model in a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

The 'Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood' exhibition runs until Sunday 26 January 2020.

Bocca Baciata, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1859

Release date: 28 October 2019

The latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery features a patient case book on loan from West Sussex Record Office.

The Graylingwell Hospital case book is on display at the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters’ exhibition providing definitive evidence of the last known whereabouts and final resting place of Fanny Cornforth, the muse and artist’s model for Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The case book also includes a rare photograph of Fanny from that time.

In 2015 the fascinating story was uncovered following the release of the indexes of the Lunacy Commission and Board of Control records by The National Archives in partnership with Ancestry. It was evidence from these records that immediately led researchers to the archives at West Sussex Record Office.

There they discovered that Fanny had spent the last two years of her life in Graylingwell Hospital with senile dementia before her death in 1909 at the age of 74. She was buried in Chichester Cemetery in a common grave without a headstone.

Wendy Walker, County Archivist, West Sussex Record Office said: “When news of this story broke four years ago, it was a real surprise and a major discovery for researchers, not only of the Pre-Raphaelites but of Fanny Cornforth in particular.

“The case book was able to uncover a century old mystery, as until then no one knew how, where or when Fanny Cornforth had died.

“Fanny was the supermodel of her day, and to have such a pivotal document displayed within the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is a real pleasure.”

The exhibition, running from Thursday 17 October 2019 – Sunday 26 January 2020, explores the contribution of twelve women to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, including Fanny.

To find out more about the exhibition, visit the National Portrait Gallery’s website for more details.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the inner workings of the West Sussex Record Office, you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

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