Lot 12
  • 12

John Everett Millais

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • John Everett Millais
  • Nina, Daughter of Frederick Lehmann, Esq.
  • signed with the artist's monogram and dated 1869 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas

Provenance

Frederick Lehmann, Esq., London (until 1891)
Mrs. Frederick Lehmann, London (widow of the above, until 1902)
Thence by descent (and sold, Sotheby's, London, June 19, 1984, lot 73, illustrated)
Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale) 
Thence by descent

Exhibited

London, Royal Academy, 1869, no. 127
Vienna, Welt-Ausstellung, 1873, no. 47 (as Porträt des Fräuleins Nina Lehmann)
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Annual Exhibition, 1884, no. 57
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Works by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt., R.A., 1886, no. 93
London, Guildhall Gallery, Corporation of London Art Gallery, Annual Loan Exhibition, 1892, no. 4 (as Miss Nina Lehmann, Afterwards Lady Campbell)
Edinburgh, Society of Scottish Artists, 1893, no. 415
London, Royal Academy, Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais, Bt., P.R.A., 1898, no. 111

Literature

The Athenaeum, 1869, vol. I, p. 609
The Millais Gallery, Boston, 1871, p. 51
Henry Blackburn, Grosvenor Notes, London, 1884, p. 17
The Athenaeum, 1884, vol. I, p. 573
The Athenaeum, 1892, vol. I, p. 510
“Personal Recollections. [By an Artist],” The Daily Telegraph, August 14, 1896, p. 5-6
Exhibition of Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais, Bart., London, 1898, p. 36
Marion H. Spielmann, Millais and His Works, Edinburgh, 1898, pp. 120, 171
Alfred Lys Baldry, Sir John Everett Millais, His Art and Influence, London, 1899, pp. 52, 59
John Guille Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, London, 1899, vol. II, p. 19-20
Leslie Linder, The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881-1897, London, 1966, p. 97
Caroline Dakers, The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society, New Haven, 1999, p. 133-7
Peter Funnell, Malcolm Warner, Kate Flint, H.C.G. Matthew and Leonée Ormond, Millais: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 1999, p. 113-4, illustrated p. 117
Paul Barlow, Time Present and Past: The Art of John Everett Millais, Ashgate, United Kingdom, 2005, p. 173-4
Jason Rosenfeld, John Everett Millais, New York, 2012, p. 122, illustrated p. 121
Robert Terrell Bledsoe, Dickens, Journalism, Music: "Household Words" and "All the Year Round," London, 2013, p. 188

Catalogue Note

Outside of one trip to the salesroom over thirty-three years ago, John Everett Millais' opulent portrait of the young daughter of Augustus Frederick Lehmann (1826-1891) and the former Jane Gibson Chambers (1830-1902), herself known as Nina, has not been seen in public since the memorial exhibition for the artist at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1898.1 This work represents one of Millais' earliest masterpieces of child portraiture, a genre in which he would excel and become known for throughout the world by the time of his death. First exhibited at the Royal Academy summer show in 1869, in that institution's initial display at its new home, Burlington House, Piccadilly, Millais was cognizant of trying to make a good showing, and the present work was hung in the privileged Gallery III. Nina Lehmann subsequently represented the artist at the important Welt-Ausstellung (World's Fair) in Vienna in 1873, along with his other radiant portrait of the period, Sisters (fig. 1) of 1868.

Nina, born Nina Frederika Mary Teba Lehmann (October 15, 1861-December 7, 1933), often called Ninette to distinguish her from her mother, was seven when Millais painted her around Christmas 1868.2 He posed her in a white frock with see-through sleeves and a blue beaded necklace with a cross-like pendant. She wears a white satin headband, a lace slip, white tights, and satin slippers. She sits atop a glazed blue jade and green earthenware pot (described in The Daily Telegraph as a "China tub"), a perch only just too high for her as evidenced by the delightful detail of her right shoe slipping from her heel. Two white Eurasian Collared-Doves stand on a floor of blueish-grey veined white marble. In her hand is a single red camellia, and there is a large potted bush of that Asian shrub in the left background, its shiny leaves and buds spreading behind the sitter to the right side of the canvas. The background is filled with a heavy blue drapery with swirled white motifs – the color scheme of the floor in reverse. The calculated choices of garment, drapery, fauna and flora add up to a beautiful whole and reflect Millais' leading role in the contemporary Aesthetic Movement, marked by his characteristically eclectic blend of artistic cultural references. These works represented refined tastes in accoutrements (often Asian in style) and clothes, an elegance reflected in the evocative brushwork absent the detailed description of Millais' earlier Pre-Raphaelite style.

In Nina, Daughter of Frederick Lehmann, Esq., Millais used an overall white tone and relaxed atmosphere as he often did in images of young girls—such as Spring (1856-9, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) and Sisters. The picture was calculated to appeal to clients with evolved tastes. The sitter’s father, Augustus Frederick Lehmann was a businessman, violinist, and musical aficionado whose wife was a pianist. She was the daughter of the publisher Robert Chambers, founder of the Edinburgh Journal. Frederick Lehmann made his fortune dealing arms in the American Civil War. One of his brothers was Henri Lehmann (1814-82), a pupil of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and the other was Millais’s friend, Rudolf Lehmann (1819-1905), also a painter, who lived at Worth Villas, Campden Hill, and who married Jane Chambers’ sister Amelia. The Lehmanns were close to Millais' associates such as the novelist Wilkie Collins, musicians including the violinist Joseph Joachim, the conductor and pianist Charles Hallé, and other members of English musical society. They held frequent musical evenings for London’s artistic society in their house at 15, Berkeley Square. In addition, Lehmann’s sister Eliza, married Ernst Benzon, and the Benzons would also become patrons of Millais.

Millais’s later portrait of Lady Campbell of 1884 (fig. 2) is almost exactly the same size as the present picture, and the two were exhibited in that year at the trendy Grosvenor Gallery. Frederick Lehmann had also commissioned this portrait, and it reflects the earlier picture in its Asian ceramics, and overall luxuriousness. It celebrated Nina's marriage on April 30, 1884 to Guy Theophilus Campbell, 3rd Bt, of Thames Ditton (1854-1931), who served in the Afghan War of 1878-80. They would have four boys and two girls.

In The Academy Claude Phillips wrote,

It was a somewhat bold venture on the part of Mr. Millais to have placed in juxtaposition his superb and well-remembered portrait of ‘Miss Nina Lehmann’ ... and his new portrait of the same lady.... The former is one of his most complete and admirable works, and is one to which Englishmen are glad to point as an example of perfect technique from the hand of one of their painters. The new portrait, though in it the master-hand is still visible, and there is much to admire -- especially the elegant pose and treatment of the head -- does not support comparison with the earlier one either as regards the painting of the flesh, the complete and harmonious rendering of the surroundings, or general charm and accomplishment.

Phillips also cannily referred to it as a Whistlerian "brilliant bravura."3 In providing a chaste and innocent riposte to James McNeill Whistler's Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl of 1862 (fig. 3), Millais both adeptly reworked that ambiguous and modern picture into viable and challenging portraiture, while leading the way to the technically assured approach that John Singer Sargent would perfect in later decades, in pictures such as The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit of 1882 (fig. 4), in which the American artist expanded upon Millais' innovative formula of Asian ceramics, decorative environs, brilliantly painted dress, and children imbued with a sense of inner life.

A watercolor version of the composition was included in the exhibition at J.S. Maas & Co., Ltd., Pre-Raphaelites and the Art Nouveau, 1964, no. 78, and purchased by Lord Perth.

1 For photographs of Jane Chambers see http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp95349/jane-gibson-nina-lehmann-nee-chambers and

http://www.paulfrecker.com/pictureDetails.cfm?pagetype=library&typeID=21&ID=6783

2 Bledsoe, p. 159.

3 Bledsoe, p. 188.

 

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