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This intimate watercolour of Annie Miller is different in style from William Holman Hunt’s painting of her, The Awakening Conscience, made ten years before (which is on display in the 1840 Gallery). It reads less like a story and more like a poem or music. Miller is swathed in yellow in the manner of a Renaissance portrait to emphasise her ‘bodily beauty’, as Rossetti termed it, and the beauty of colour. A later oil version was named after the woman most famous for the enchanting power of her appearance, Helen of Troy.

February 2016