Who Is Fanny Eaton? The Jamaican Model Who Inspired the Pre-Raphaelites Is the Latest Art-World Figure to Get a Google Doodle

Born in Jamaica to a mother who had been freed from slavery, Fanny Eaton became a popular model at London's Royal Academy.

Sophie Diao, Google Doodle for Fanny Eaton. Courtesy of Google.

The Google Doodle for November 18 honors Fanny Eaton, a muse to the Pre-Raphaelites who helped redefine Victorian standards of beauty.

Born in Jamaica on June 23, 1835, Eaton moved to London in the 1840s with her mother, Matilda Foster, who had been freed from slavery after the practice was abolished in the English colonies in 1834.

In her early 20s, Eaton began working as a life-drawing model at the Royal Academy. After Simeon Solomon featured Eaton in his painting The Mother of Moses, exhibited at the academy in 1860, she quickly became a favorite subject for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Eaton features in many prominent paintings by the artist group, including works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and Joanna Mary Boyce.

Joanna Boyce Wells, <em>Study of Fanny Eaton (Head of a Mulatto Woman)</em>, 1861. Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art.

Joanna Boyce Wells, Study of Fanny Eaton (Head of a Mulatto Woman) (1861). Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art.

“The group held Eaton up as a model of ideal beauty and featured her centrally at a time when Black individuals were significantly underrepresented, and often negatively represented, in Victorian art,” Google wrote of Eaton’s prominence in the artwork of the era.

“Given that Black representation was often non-existent throughout the 1800s, positive representation and a new face of ideal beauty was—and still is—a powerful message.”

To create an Eaton-inspired Google Doodle, illustrator Sophie Diao turned directly to the art, familiarizing herself with Pre-Raphaelite paintings and sketches of Eaton.

Sophie Diao, drafts of the Google Doodle for Fanny Eaton. Courtesy of Google.

Sophie Diao, drafts of the Google Doodle for Fanny Eaton. Courtesy of Google.

“A great example is Joanna Boyce Wells’s study of Fanny Eaton, though unlike Wells’s study, I opted to leave her hair and ears unadorned as though she were sitting casually in the artist’s studio,” Diao said in a statement. “The color palette and flowers were drawn from the intense, dramatic lushness that marks the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites.”

“The ‘Google’ letters are inspired by the illuminated manuscripts created by the Pre-Raphaelites (who were in turn inspired by tomes from the Middle Ages),” she added.

The image currently graces the Google homepage in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Iceland, and Greece.

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