4
4

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
PORTRAIT OF MISS HERBERT
Estimate
70,000100,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
4

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
PORTRAIT OF MISS HERBERT
Estimate
70,000100,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art

|
London

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
1828-1882
PORTRAIT OF MISS HERBERT
signed with monogram and indistinctly dated 1876 u.l.
coloured chalks over pencil on buff paper
24 by 19cm., 9½ by 7½in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Probably commissioned in 1876 by the sitter and her husband John Downes Rochfort of Sidmouth Lodge, The Boltons, London;
MacGeorge collection;
Sotheby's, London, 22 April 1959, lot 23, where bought by a private collector and thence by descent to the present owner

Catalogue Note

This strikingly beautiful portrait was last seen publically in 1959. It depicts the actress Louisa Ruth Maynard (1831-1921), daughter of a West Country brass-founder, who used the stage-name ‘Miss Herbert’. She enjoyed some success on the stage but is better known as one of Rossetti’s ‘Stunners’. Miss Herbert was described by Rossetti as having ‘the most varied and highest expression I ever saw in a woman’s face, besides abundant beauty, golden hair etc.’ (Virginia Surtees, The Actress and the Brewers Wife – Two Victorian Vignettes, 1997, p35). This description was given by Rossetti in a letter to his friend William Bell Scott on 1 June 1858 when he was preparing for her arrival at his studio for the first time; ‘I am in the stunning position this morning of expecting the actual visit, at ½ past 11, of a model whom I have been longing to paint for years – Miss Herbert of the Olympic Theatre…’. She was the subject of more than a dozen sensitively drawn portraits between 1858 and 1859 and posed for Mary Magdalene at the House of Simon the Pharisee (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). Ruskin encouraged Rossetti to paint her likeness into the great triptych for Llandaff Cathedral, The Seed of David (later repainted with the head of Jane Morris). She was introduced to other artists and was painted by Val Prinsep in The Queen was in the Parlour Eating Bread and Honey (Manchester City Art Gallery), as Cleopatra by Frederick Sandys (present whereabouts unknown) and as the central female figure in the famous painting Derby Day by William Powell Frith (Tate).

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

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art

|
London