Lot 3
  • 3

John William Waterhouse, R.A., R.I.

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • John William Waterhouse, R.A., R.I.
  • Vain Lamorna, A Study for Lamia
  • inscribed on the stretcher: Vain Lamorina
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 by 74cm., 21¾ by 29in.


Artist's sale, Christie's, 23 July 1926, lot 50 as Vain Lamorna to Mr Croal Thomson of Barbizon House, London;
William Henry Henderson, 9 Princes Gardens, Westminster and West Woodhay House in Newbury, remaining with him until his death in 1931, when it probably passed to his grandson Johnny Henderson, by whom sold Christie's, 21 December 1950, lot 17 to 'Adam';
Christie's, 8 June 1951, lot 120 to 'M. Morris';
Private collection


Anthony Hobson, The Art and Life of JW Waterhouse RA 1849-1917, 1980, p.196, cat.no.309


STRUCTURE The canvas has been lined. There are some areas of craquelure, mainly to localised areas on her face and above her head and elsewhere. UNDER ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT Ultraviolet light reveals an opaque varnish. There appear to be two small spots of retouching, one in the figure's hair and the other in the figure's right eyebrow. There are also small areas of retouching to the lower edge probably to repair frame abrasions. FRAME Held in a gilt plaster frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The present picture began as a sketch for Lamia painted in 1909 (private collection) in which the serpentine enchantress is contemplating her reflection in a woodland pool. Whilst composing Lamia Waterhouse was inspired to make several more variants of the composition, including The Necklace (private collection), in which the model is holding up a string of jewels taken from a casket - presumably the same jewel-box visible in the foreground of Vain Lamorina. The title Vain Lamorina was given by Anthony Hobson in 1980 which appears to be based upon a lable attached the the reverse. However the original title was Vain Lamorna, based upon a story by Mary de Morgan, included in her book On a Pincushion and other Fairy Tales which was illustrated by her brother William de Morgan, better-known as the famous potter. 'The Story of Vain Lamorna' tells of a beautiful farmer's daughter whose reflection was stolen by the water-people when she was admiring herself in a stream to punish her for her vanity. The fairy-tale has a happy ending when Lamorna's reflection is returned to her after she learns her lesson and is reunited with an admirer who she had cruelly treated.  

Vain Lamorna was one of the pictures bought by ‘Harry’ Henry William Henderson (1862-1931) an avid collector of Waterhouse's work, who also owned Ariadne of 1898 (private collection), Windflowers of 1902 (private collection), Phyllis and Demophoon (present whereabouts unknown) and Isabella and the Pot of Basil both painted in 1907 (private collection). Henderson’s brothers Alexander Lord Faringdon and Sir Brodie Haldane Henderson had made a fortune financing railroads across Argentina and Spain and were among Waterhouse’s most avid and prolific collectors, owning at least fifty of his paintings including St Cecilia and almost his entire output from the years between 1903 and 1914. Waterhouse also made portraits of Lady Violet Henderson, Mrs A P Henderson, Mrs Philip Henderson and Mrs Arnold Henderson. It seems that Waterhouse may have first met the Henderson family around 1900 when he painted Miss Margaret Henderson, Alexander’s daughter, to mark the occasion of her marriage to Captain Charles Schreiber.

Following Harry Henderson’s death in 1931 most of the paintings by Waterhouse were bequeathed to his son and to his grandson Johnny and the dispersal of the collection began around 1948 when Johnny Henderson sold fifteen oil paintings by Waterhouse at Christie’s. Among the pictures that can be identified are Isabella and the Pot of Basil and various large oil sketches for finished paintings. In 1950 three further pictures were sold by the Henderson estate, Ophelia said to have been exhibited at Burlington House in 1909, a sketch for The Love Philtre of 1914 and the present Vain Lamorna.