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The ideas of the young Burne-Jones were given definition and substance by his contact with Rossetti. But he also responded to John Ruskin's pronouncements on aesthetics. The two men first met in 1856 and became good friends, travelling to Italy together in 1862. Ruskin is seen here making the acquaintance of Fanny Cornforth, a prostitute who became Rossetti's model and mistress - surely an uneasy introduction. Although Beerbohm exaggerates the contrast between the frail art critic and the robust lovers, his humour is based on contemporary recollections. Indeed, the portly Rossetti's own pet name for Fanny was 'Elephant', while William Bell Scott described her as 'that three waisted creature'.

July 1993