I just finished reading a, honestly, rather forgettable book called The Pre-Raphaelites: Their Lives in Letters and Diaries. There wasn't much new information to be found in this book, but there was a small color illustration in a section on Rossetti of an artwork I had never noticed before, called The Merciless Lady. The caption noted that the picture showed "a man between two women, one dark, one fair, in triangular tension of the kind that characterized many of his own emotional relationships."
Well, looking at it, I'd call that an understatement! I think this picture shows, incredibly clearly, the love Rossetti had for two specific women...Lizzie and Jane. The figure on the left is most definitely reminiscent of Jane Morris, with her dark hair and distinctive profile. The figure on the right, with her pale hair and eyes downcast, is a dead-ringer for Lizzie. The central figure, which is Rossetti in my mind, has his hands clasped in Jane's, but his attention is captured by Lizzie. What a perfectly iconic image of the tumult Jane must have felt being in a relationship with a man who was still, in many ways, fixated on his dead beloved. I've never seen an artwork that so fully captured the sum of emotions involved with Rossetti's feelings toward these two very different beauties.
What do you think of this image? What does it say to you?