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This watercolour of Annie Miller shows her differently from her depiction ten years earlier in William Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience, now in Tate’s collection. Here the headsuggests mood, more like a poem or a piece of music than someone in a story. The result is in the manner of a Renaissance portrait, creating a study of her ‘bodily beauty’, as Rossetti termed it, and celebrating the beauty of pure colour. A more finished oil version was named after the legendary beauty, Helen of Troy (1863, Walker Art Gallery).

October 2013