Gazing into the emptiness, luxuriant red hair, ivory complexion: Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrayal of the timeless visage of the Queen of Hearts is in fact Elizabeth Siddal, the model with whom the Pre-Raphaelite master had a long and tormented love story. Rossetti painted this work when Elizabeth was already very ill andaddicted to laudanum, the psychotropic substance with which she would take her own life shortly thereafter, consumed by an existential malaiseto which Rossetti himself certainly contributed. Two-dimensional like a playing card, set against a gilded background and interwoven with learnedreferences to Renaissance painting, the image of Elizabeth as the Regina Cordium offers a splendid testimony to Rossetti’s style in the early 1860s. Soon afterwards, the founder of the brotherhood of Pre-Raphaelites would significantly change his pictorial language, adopting a more sumptuous and aesthetically refined style. The art and life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti reflect all the contradictions of the Victorian age, characterised by a clash between the strict moral rules promoted by the queen and the irregular conduct of the artists of the confraternity, the iconographic and stylistic complexity of whose research was divided between a deep need to revive sacred themes and female imagery of unsettling sensuality.