A Model Profession: Fanny Eaton



Portrait of Fanny Eaton 1859

by Simeon Solomon


When we think of the careers which were around in the 1800’s perhaps these are the most typical guesses: Blacksmith, shoemaker, baker, farmer teacher construction, servant, and for women the choices were much less, as it defiantly was a man’s world. It was almost a must for a working class woman to work, as well as take care of her children, and this is something Fanny Eaton accomplished being a model, and a mother to 7 children.

Fanny was a Jamaican born woman, her mother Matilda Foster settled in Britain with Eaton in the 1840’s. If we trace further along their family line, Eaton’s grandmother, Bathsheba, was born into slavery in Jamaica. Later on in her life Fanny became a model to pre Raphaelite artists, as proof, a large portfolio of her work have been recognised, including the paintings below.

Some of Fanny’s Work


The Mother of Moses (1860)

By Simeon Solomon


The Mother of Sisera Looking out at a Window (1861)

By Albert Moore


The Beloved (1865-6)

By Dante Gabriel Rossetti



It is clear to see why Fanny Eaton was asked to sit and do many portraits, she definatly had a face full of emotion and somewhat imperfect perfection (oxymoron, but can you see what I mean). Fanny Eatons career was short but sweet, she took on the job to sustain her family, as being employed as a charwoman (daily cleaner) was not bringing in enough. By 1881 she had been widowed and worked as a seamstress, and lived the rest of her life on the Isle of Wight, working as a domestic cook. That is as far as her story is known. 

2 thoughts on “A Model Profession: Fanny Eaton

  1. Fanny Eaton was my Great Grandmother. She actually had 10 children – 6 girls and 4 boys – and died in Acton, London in 1924. She was only in the Isle of Wight for a short time. It is now being seen that she actually posed for more painters than was thought before so maybe her modelling career was longer than first thought ?

    • Wow that’s pretty cool! Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s good to know her blood line lives on , and I am pleased you are one of the people who have been able to track down your ancestry line (since I barely know much about my own).

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