Rossetti, determined to Paint a contemporary social subject, was preoccupied by Found, which remained unfinished all his life. It was originally commissioned by MacCracken in 1854, then cancelled, and commissioned again in 1859 by James Leathart, a lead merchant in Newcastle. By 1867 the exasperated Rossetti was prepared to reimburse Leathart the money that he had advanced and relinquish the commission because so little Progress had been made. Yet he took up the struggle again in both 1869 and 1879, hoping to prove that despite his being a poetic painter he was also able to Paint naturalistic subjects. On Rossetti's death the incomplete painting entered the possession of William Graham, a Glasgow MP, who in 1869 had agreed to purchase Found for £800.
Rossetti's tackling the theme of the 'fallen woman' - a subject often treated in both literature and art by his contemporaries indicated his untypically relaxed attitude toward sexuality in a climate of fervent morality. Prior to and during the execution of the painting, he wrote two Poems on the subject. His Jenny of 1848 described an encounter with a prostitute - 'Lazy laughing languid Jenny / Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea' while his sonnet of 1881, written when he was completing the figures, speaks of the moment of truth captured by the painting, with the woman exclaiming,'Leave me! I do not know you, go away!'
The choice of such an overtly moralistic theme reveals a dutiful attempt to follow the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood line on realism. F. G. Stephens analyzed the imagery thus: the girl crouches against a wall of a church-yard "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest"; the brightening dawn symbolizes, as it may be, peace (with forgiveness) on earth, or in Heaven, after sorrow.' The prostitute is discovered by a farmer, her former lover. Having executed the wall in situ in Chiswick, Rossetti spent much of the winter of 1854 with the Madox Browns in Finchley, where he labored to Paint the calf and cart. He wrote:
'As for the calf, he kicks and fights all the time he remains tied up, which is five or six hours daily, and the view of life induced appears to be so melancholy that he punctually attempts suicide at 3½ daily P.M.'
According to her own (and possibly fanciful) account as told later to the painting's eventual owner, the American textile tycoon and collector Samuel Bancroft Jr - Rossetti, seeking a model for this painting, met Fanny Cornforth (later his mistress) while out walking with friends. One of his party knocked her golden hair and sent it cascading down her back, and she was asked to sit for Found the next day. As she recalled it: "he put my head against the wall and drew it for the head in the calf picture."
Return to the Rossetti Page