Lot 41
  • 41

Maxfield Parrish

900,000 - 1,200,000 USD
1,092,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Maxfield Parrish
  • Lady Violetta and the Knave of Hearts Open the Oven Door to See if the Tarts are Done
  • signed with initials M P (lower right); also signed Maxfield Parrish:/Windsor: Vermont, dated 1924 and titled "The Lady Violetta and the Knave of Hearts open the oven door to see if the tarts are done." on the reverse
  • oil on board


Scott & Fowles, New York
Private collection, 1925 (acquired from the above)
Estate of the artist, 1976
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts 
Alma Gilbert, Hillsborough, California, 1977 (acquired from the above)
Gary F. Atherton, Atherton, California, 1977
Alma Gilbert, Hillsborough, California
Mary Bell, 1984 (acquired from the above)
Drs. Tom Montag and Lisa Stuart, California, 1992
William Helvey, Los Altos, California, 1994
Acquired by the present owner, 2013


(probably) New York, Scott & Fowles, An Exhibition of Paintings by Maxfield Parrish, November-December 1925
Windsor, Vermont, The Oaks: Maxfield Parrish Museum, June-August 1978 (as Lady Violetta & The Knave and dated 1923)
Cornish, New Hampshire, Cornish Colony Gallery & Museum, Cornish Colony Centennial Celebration, June-October 1998 (as Lady Violetta and the Knave and dated 1923)
Palm Beach, Florida, The Society for the Four Arts; Reno, Nevada, Nevada Museum of Art; San Diego, California, The San Diego Museum of Art; Savannah, Georgia, Telfair Museum of Art; Huntsville, Alabama, Huntsville Museum of Art; Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis Brooks Museum, Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, January 2005-May 2006, no. 3, p. 44, illustrated p. 45 (as Lady Violetta and the Knave and dated 1923)
New Orleans, Louisiana, M.S. Rau Antiques, Exhibited in America, Illustrated: Six Decades of Saturday Evening Post Covers, November 2015-January 2016 (as The Knave of Hearts: Lady Violetta & The Knave)


Louise Saunders, The Knave of Hearts, New York, 1925, p. 27, illustrated 
Coy Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, no. 706, p. 206 (as Violetta and Knave Examining the Tarts)
Paul W. Skeeters, Maxfield Parrish: The Early Years 1893-1930, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1973, p. 268, illustrated p. 269 (as Lady Violetta and the Knave Observing the Tarts Which Have Become Soft and Runny)
Alma Gilbert, Maxfield Parrish: The Masterworks, Berkeley, California, 1992, p. 52, illustrated fig. 2.32, p. 50 (as Lady Violetta and the Knave and dated 1923)
Laurence S. Cutler, Judy Goffman Cutler and the National Museum of American Illustration, Maxfield Parrish and the American Imagists, Edison, New Jersey, 2004, p. 216, illustrated (as The Knave of Hearts (Violetta and the Knave Examine the Tarts) and dated 1925)

Catalogue Note

The images Maxfield Parrish executed to illustrate Louise Saunder’s 1925 book, The Knave of Hearts, are today considered among his finest achievements. Over the span of three years, Parrish created 26 whimsical, sumptuously colored and brilliantly detailed works that fully capture this fantastical story of make-believe that Saunders adapted from the beloved Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.

In her version, Saunders expands the role of the knave to make him a central character and offers an explanation of why he stole the tarts: he was helping Lady Violetta, who could only marry King Pompdebile if she proved she could make the perfect pastry. Now the hero of the tale, the knave substitutes the perfect tarts baked by his wife for the inedible ones attempted by Violetta, allowing her to become the Queen of Hearts.

Displaying the extraordinary attention to detail for which Parrish is best known, the present work demonstrates Parrish’s wholly unique aesthetic and vivid imagination while also confirming his sophisticated understanding of light, color and compositional design. The surface of the work is a tapestry of rich color that the highly experimental artist achieved by meticulously applying numerous layers of translucent glazes onto board. The technique contributes to the intense, striking luminosity that characterizes each work from the series. Indeed, Paul W. Skeeters writes of The Knave of Hearts, Parrish’s final book commission, "This book is probably one of the most beautiful and artistically impressive children's books ever published in America. The twenty-five illustrations in color, including cover, end-sheet and title pages, and story illustrations, most of which were painted especially for this book between 1923 and 1925, may be enjoyed individually, and apart from the text, as works of art. They represent the peak of Parrish's work in fantasy," (Maxfield Parrish: The Early Years 1893-1930, Los Angeles, California, 1973, p. 250).

Parrish knew Saunders, the wife of the editor of Scribner’s magazine, Maxwell Evarts Perkins, from the summers they spent together at Cornish, New Hampshire and was immediately intrigued when he learned of her project. “The reason I wanted to illustrate The Knave of Hearts was on the account of the bully opportunity it gives for a very good time making the pictures,” he later explained. “Imagination could run riot, bound down by no period, just good fun and all sorts of things” (quoted in Sylvia Yount, Maxfield Parrish 1870-1966, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1999, pp. 86-88). Parrish’s enthusiasm for the commission caused him to go so far as to build an intricate model of a castle in his studio so he could more accurately depict its likeness.

The publication of The Knave of Hearts coincided with an important exhibition of Parrish’s works at Scott & Fowles gallery in New York, which included most of the works from the Knave of Hearts series. Every single work sold, helping to make 1925 and 1926 two of the most critically successful and creatively fruitful years of the artist’s career.