- Dante Gabriel Rossetti
- Portrait of Maria Hungerford Pollen
- signed with monogram and dated 30 August 1857 l.l.
- pen with brown ink
- 28 by 23cm., 11 by 9in.
Given by the artist to the sitter and thence by descent to her great-granddaughter, Mrs Philip Jebb and thence by further descent to the present owners
Royal Academy, 1934, no.1290;
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, The Pre-Raphaelites: A Loan Exhibition of their Paintings and Drawings held in the Centenary Year of the Brotherhood, 1948, no.48
Virginia Surtees, The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: a catalogue raisonné, 1971, cat.no 414
Maria Margaret (“Minnie”) La Primaudaye (1838-1919) was the daughter of Rev. Charles La Primaudaye. In 1855 she married the artist, architect and connoisseur John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902) with whom she had ten children. The Pollens had lived in Dublin (where he assisted with establishing University College Dublin) but moved to England in 1857, the year that the present sensitive drawing was made. Pollen had known Millais since 1850 and Holman Hunt since 1851 and met Rossetti, Morris and Burne-Jones in 1856 when they were at Oxford. In the late summer of 1857 Rossetti and Morris invited Pollen to join them and others to paint murals on the subject of King Arthur for the Oxford Union. It is plausible that this drawing was used by Rossetti for the head of the principal angel in Sir Lancelot’s Vision of the Sanc Grael
, his mural at Oxford. Various friends posed for the studies for this picture, including Jane and William Morris, who were the models for the main figures. It was suggested by Virginia Surtees that the angels were based upon the likeness of Elizabeth Siddall with whom Minnie bore a striking resemblance and the position of the head in the present drawing corresponds with the mural. To have been depicted as an angel in Rossetti’s mural would have been very appropriate for a vicar’s daughter. The drawing is described in a letter from Holman Hunt to Minnie’s daughter as; ‘an excellent example of his power in portraiture’
The Pollens became very well-connected in artistic circles and habitués of the gatherings at Little Holland House, in London, held by the parents of another one of the Oxford mural painters, Val Prinsep. Minnie Pollen was photographed in profile by Prinsep’s aunt Julia Margaret Cameron c.1864-70 (print, offered Sotheby’s, New York, 7 October 1993, lot 24) and was a good amateur photographer herself.