The head and upper torso of a coquettish young woman, seen against a plain, deep-green background. She is depicted in three-quarter view to the right, her head tilted at an angle, with the left hand holding aside her unbuttoned dress to reveal a white petticoat beneath; with her right hand, she holds up the necklace she is wearing, which matches the bracelet around her wrist. She is depicted with long, deep red hair, which is gathered behind her ear with a clasp in the form of a spiral decorated with pearls; the necklace is made of alternate red and gold coloured beads with a pink heart-shaped pendant, translucent and edged with gold, and the bracelet is red with a gold clasp. The red beads look like coral. Her dress is russet red with decorative stripes, has golden buttons at the cuffs and down the bodice, and a fur trim along the inside edges of the sleeves. The words ‘Joli Cœur’ to the top left, and Rossetti’s monogram and ‘1867’ to the top right are particularly prominent, being in gold lettering against the deep green background. The gilt frame has, from the top edge, a simple arrow-and-dot border, then a pattern of semi-circles carved either side of a ridge, then a plain frieze, then another small arrow-and-dot border.
Gallery text panel In Pursuit of Beauty Late Victorian Art and Design Improving the quality of British art and design had been a concern since the 1850s. The British Empire had expanded into new continents but it was the classical ideal of beauty, based on Ancient Greek and Roman culture that was still considered the model for serious art. The pursuit of beauty was a form of escapism from the mass-production of industrial Britain. As well as looking to the ancient world, artists and designers were delighted and inspired by the arts of Renaissance Italy, the Middle and Far East. Many of the paintings here feature a beautiful woman. Sometimes she is a passive, decorative form, but often she is a dark and brooding femme fatale, a symbol of seduction, deception and destruction. The 'fatal woman' may reflect late Victorian male fears as women campaigned for equal rights and new roles. The emphasis on colour, harmony and rhythm and simplifying the form of an object would become major concerns in the 20th century. They can be seen emerging here in the work of late Victorian artists and designers.