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Details & Cataloguing

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art

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London

George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A.
1817-1904
PORTRAIT OF DOROTHY DENE

Provenance

Donated by the artist for sale on behalf of the Artist's War Fund, Christie's, 24 February 1900, no. 158 as A Portrait Study;
G. Lloyd Engstrom;
Sotheby's, 23 November 1966, lot 115;
Sotheby's, 26 June 1968, lot 21;
Sotheby's, 19 November 1969, lot 152;
Sotheby's, 23 June 1987, lot 66;
Mr and Mrs Geddes;
Christie's, 24 November 1989, lot 93B, where purchased by Seymour Stein

Exhibited

London, Grafton Gallery, Exhibition of Dramatic and Musical Art, 1897, no. 198

Literature

Mrs Russell Barrington, Reminiscences of G. F. Watts, 1905, pp. 88-89;
Veronica Franklin Gould, G.F. Watts – The Last Great Victorian, 2004, p.166-167

Catalogue Note

The actress and noted artist's model Dorothy Dene was born Ada Alice Pullen in 1859. She was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in London and there were rumours that she was Leighton's mistress. Tragically she died aged only forty. 'The late Dorothy Dene, besides being a clever writer, artist, and actress, possessed remarkable beauty, and posed for several of the late Lord Leighton's classical pictures, notably "Greek Girls Playing at Ball" and "Cymon and Iphigenia." She was greatly loved, and will be sadly missed by all who knew her.' (The Era, London, Saturday, 30 December 1899, p.14a) She posed twice for Watts, first in March 1888 when he painted her head during a two-hour sitting (private collection) of which the present picture appears to be another version. She also posed for fanciful pictures such as Olympus on Ida exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1888 and reputedly also posed for his famous Hope.

‘Leighton himself admitted that he was unable to capture her colouring, and the two portraits by Watts were generally considered to be better likenesses.’
Richard and Leonee Ormond, Lord Leighton, 1975, p.134

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art

|
London