Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tissot, Rossetti, Holman Hunt And Millais at Christie’s London on 16 June 2015

Christie’s has announced details of the Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art sale which will take place on 16 June 2015. The auction presents stellar examples of 19th and 20th century British painting including James (Jacques) Joseph Tissot’s Les Demoiselles de Province, which has remained unseen for over a century (estimate: £1.2–1.8 million,)

Other revered artists of the Victorian and Edwardian eras include Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Alfred James Munnings and E.J. Poynter. The sale comprises a beautiful private collection of Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian drawings and paintings, led by one of eight works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beatrice: A Portrait of Jane Morris (estimate: £700,000-£1 million). There are a rich array of opportunities for new and established collectors alike to acquire works at a wide range of price points, with estimates starting from £1,000 to £1.2 million.

Leading the sale is Tissot’s Les Demoiselles de Province, a striking example of the artist’s painterly talent and gentle humour that gained him international renown and popularity. Tissot created a series of compositions focusing on women’s daily lives, and this painting is one of a series entitled ‘Parisian Women’ (1883–1885). This museum-quality work captures the uncertainty of three beautifully dressed daughters as they arrive too early for a reception, gathering around their father who looks overawed. Les Demoiselles de Province is in its original frame and is offered in remarkable condition.

See interesting article here for more background on Tissot’s La Femme à Paris series and this painting.

Building on the success of the auction in June 2014, when Christie’s set a world record for William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) at auction, the sale will feature The Birthday (estimate: £600,000–800,000). Hunt gave this painting to the sitter, and it has come by descent in the family to the present owner. The sitter is Hunt’s sister-in-law Edith Waugh, who is seen holding presents she was given on her twenty-first birthday. It was begun in the aftermath of her eldest sister Fanny’s death. Hunt married Fanny in 1865, but tragically died after less than a year of marriage. While painting Edith, Hunt became aware that she had been in love with him for some years. The painting is full of symbolic connotations that represent the emerging love between artist and sitter, who won through against all the odds and eventually married in 1875.

When John Everett Millais (1829–1896) painted Pensive in 1893 he was the most acclaimed artist in Britain (estimate: £600,000–800,000). Millais exhibited the present work at the Royal Academy that spring and received high praise. This work explores three roots of late-19th century artistic production: Georgian portraiture, the Victorian predilection for images of children, and the handling and style of the Aesthetic Movement. Millais was also interested in psychology and here he has given the little girl a real sense of inner life, beauty and innocence.

This sale will also feature a coastal scene by Philip Wilson Streer, Yachts at Cowes (Summer at Cowes) (estimate: £250,000–350,000). Steer was considered the new standard-bearer for the avant-garde, as he embraced modern painting and impressionism. The brushstrokes of the present work echo ‘classic’ impressionist canvases by Monet and Sisley. Steer enjoyed observing holiday-makers watching the off-shore excitement during the annual yacht racing at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) formed an abiding love for and fascination with Venice, which informed his depictions of the mysterious floating city for over thirty years. Gondoliers, Venice is a vibrant and dynamic example of the Venice Sargent painted during his almost annual visits from 1898 to 1913 and serves as a window into the life and travels of one of the most celebrated artists of the 19th and 20th centuries (estimate: £120,000–180,000). The present work was dedicated to Paolo Tosti (1846–1916), Italian tenor and composer, and given to him by Sargent. It was then in the collection of Samuel Joseph.

This sale comprises four works by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878–1959), including The artist painting on Exmoor (estimate: £30,000–50,000). The dramatic and distinctive landscapes around Exmoor provided the subject matter for many of the artist’s paintings. This oil is a rare self portrait of Munnings at work, epitomising his love of plein air painting. It was executed soon after he had been elected President of the Royal Academy. Further works by Munnings to be offered include Hop Pickers Returning (estimate: £80,000–120,000) and Saddling (estimate: £150,000–250,000).

The three principle founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti, Hunt and Millais, are all well represented in this sale.

Rossetti’s A Christmas Carol is a highly finished drawing with excellent provenance (estimate: £250,000–350,000). The present work is related to a painting of the same date (1867), which holds the world record for the artist at auction. The model for A Christmas Carol was Ellen Smith, a laundry girl, and, like so many of the models who passed through Rossetti’s doors, of equivocal virtue. There is a pencil study for the painting in the British Museum, and this present work is often described as a ‘finished study’, implying that it was the definitive rendering of the subject before Rossetti embarked on the painting itself.

This sale includes a watercolour by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833–1898), titled Viridis of Milan (estimate: £80,000 – 120,000). Still in its original frame, this work has come to the market for the first time having once been owned by the painter George Price Boyce, and thence by descent to the current owner. It depicts Viridis Visconti (1451–1414), an Italian noblewoman who married Leopold III, Duke of Austria. This work exemplifies Burne-Jones’s interest in the Italian Renaissance as the pose of the sitter, her costume, and the interior behind her are all reminiscent of the work of Titian. It was conceived as part of a series of ‘harmonies’, paintings of unrelated subjects, linked through an exploration of colour, which Burne-Jones painted in the early years of the 1860s.


Offered as part of this sale is a beautiful collection featuring 45 works, some of which have not been seen for decades. Leading the collection is one of eight works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Beatrice: A Portrait of Jane Morris (estimate: £700,000-£1 million,).

Harriet Drummond, International Head of British Drawings & Watercolours, Christie’s: “Christie's is delighted to be handling this important and breath-takingly beautiful collection of paintings and drawings brought together by a couple of anglophile art lovers, who combined their passion for the aesthetic of the Victorian Period with the discerning eye of the connoisseur collector. It is the art of this Victorian era celebrating beauty through its depiction of largely female figures, from the monumentality of ‘Desdemona’ to the intimacy of ‘Fanny Cornforth, asleep on a chaise-longue’ that so strongly influenced our idea of beauty today.”
With the recent re-emergence of interest in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, led by Tate’s Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition in 2012, this collection represents many of the ‘Stunners’ who inspired their paintings and made their work truly ‘romantic’, including eight beguiling works by Rossetti. The fine selection of works on paper is led by Rossetti’s impressive life-size study for the protagonist in  

Desdemona’s Death Song (estimate: £500,000-800,000, ). Modelled by Alexa Wilding, the composition is based on Shakespeare’s Othello, and shows the hauntingly beautiful Desdemona preparing for bed on the fatal night she is murdered by her estranged husband. These women informed the paintings they modelled for and introduced a new concept of female beauty to the Victorian public. It is the art of this period – startling realism, intimacy and feminine beauty – that indelibly defines our images of nineteenth-century England, and transformed British art forever.

A ‘Stunner’ who proved irresistible to Rossetti, and dominated the artist’s imagination in the early and mid-1860s, was Fanny Cornforth (1835-1906). After an exhausting day of modelling,

Fanny Cornforth, asleep on a chaise-longue shows her resting between sittings and provides an insight into Rossetti’s domestic arrangements in Chelsea, where Fanny had been installed as his housekeeper (estimate: £120,000-180,000). This captivating drawing has formed part of the world’s most renowned collections, given by Rossetti to his friend, patron and fellow artist G.P. Boyce in 1862, it has since belonged to four well-known connoisseurs: Herbert Horne, Edward Marsh, Sir Brinsley Ford, and the novelist Sir Hugh Walpole.
It is clear that the two collectors have focused on drawings, most of which exemplify the romance, imagination, and soul of the Pre-Raphaelites, their contemporaries and the artists they influenced. Alongside the seven drawings by Rossetti himself, are three by Edward Burne-Jones, four by Simeon Solomon, two by Frederick Sandys, and an example by Charles Fairfax Murray, Evelyn De Morgan and Emma Sandys.

Proud Maisie by Sandys is one of the artist’s most popular subjects and this present composition is charged with sexual tension and raw emotion (estimate: £50,000-70,000ft). The model for Proud Maisie was Mary Emma Jones, an actress who had ten children with Sandys and was his principal muse, inspiring countless works which celebrate her distinctive profile and luxuriant tresses.
Three of the Pre-Raphaelites’ contemporaries who celebrated classicism – Frederic Leighton, E.J. Poynter, and William Blake Richmond – are also present.

Poynter’s painting of Judith (estimate: £80,000-120,000) depicts the story when the Hebrew heroine saves her people by seducing and beheading Holofernes. Exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881 and still in the original tabernacle frame, it is a magnificent study of character and intent, this painting has not been on the market for three decades.