This rediscovered drawing was made fifteen years after Ruth had been Rossetti’s muse and it seems that she re-entered his life as a patron rather than as a model. She had ceased to be an actress, a profession that she had never really enjoyed as she found learning lines difficult. From 1864 she had managed the St. James Theatre, where among her greatest achievements was giving the unknown Henry Irving his earliest opportunity. She had ceased her theatrical management in 1868 to devote herself to domestic life. Although she remained married to her gambling stockbroker husband Edward Crabb, who she had married in 1855, he abandoned her to live in India after being caught in a compromising position with their chambermaid when Ruth was pregnant with their first child. She had been unsuccessful in obtaining a divorce but in an effort to distance herself from her husband she added an ‘e’ to her surname. As ‘Mrs Crabbe’ she enjoyed the attention of several dashing lovers, including an amateur gentleman-artist named John Downes Rochfort who descended from the twelfth century knight de Rochfort of Poitou. Most people (including her children) were told that she and ‘Rochey’ had married in Switzerland in 1868, although this was impossible. Although she was unfaithful on at least one spectacular occasion with one of his friends who fathered her daughter, she adored Rochey and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle as his kept woman. She and Rochey travelled all over Europe in the schooner Leda, purchased by him in 1869. She had a large house at The Boltons in Chelsea, Sidmouth Lodge, where her household included three domestic servants, a French governess, a gardener and even a dressmaker.
Along with another similar portrait drawing of 1876 (Fig 1. Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven) the present portrait was probably made at Ruth’s request. Her mane of glorious hair, swan-like neck and pouting Cupid's-bow lips give both portraits a strong sensual charge.
‘Tall, with a commanding presence, a fine neck and arms, attributes much favoured by the Victorians… [she was an] intimidating figure.’
Virginia Surtees, , The Actress and the Brewers Wife – Two Victorian Vignettes, 1997, p.81
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