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Rothenstein was a nineteen-year-old student in Paris when he produced this painting. He later compared the model to a phrase of the novelist Henry James: ‘The wanton was not without a certain cadaverous beauty’.

The frontal disposition of the figure against a gold background echoes the work of Thomas Cooper Gotch, also shown in this display. But Rothenstein’s image strikes a much more disturbing note. The verse inscribed at the bottom right is a quotation from a poem by Robert Browning with the same title as the picture. It could be taken to suggest either abandoned love or sexual liberation.

September 2004