11 Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Highlights

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The upcoming sale of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art comprises a carefully curated collection of oil paintings, watercolours and drawings by leading artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the highlights of the sale is John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s painting Penelope, which depicts the faithful wife of King Odysseus from Homer’s The Odyssey. Click ahead to see more from the auction.

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art
14 December | London

11 Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Highlights

  • John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Penelope.
    Estimate: £400,000–600,000.
    Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and faithful wife of King Odysseus, is seen here seated in an apple-orchard weaving at her loom. During her husband’s ten-year absence fighting in the Trojan wars, Penelope was beset by suitors vying for her affection, insisting that Odysseus must be dead. Refusing to believe that she was widowed or abandoned, Penelope rebuffed their advances and kept them at bay with various ruses, one of which was to say that she would marry one of the men after completing a woven funeral pall she was making for her father-in-law. Every day she would work industriously at the tapestry as the impatient suitors watched her progress but at night she would secretly unpick the day’s work. In Stanhope’s painting she rests her head wearily on her hand and dreams of her beloved husband, exhausted by her nocturnal work. She is sheltered from the Mediterranean sun and the lustful eyes of her suitors by a red canopy and black screen hanging from the boughs of the trees.

  • John William Waterhouse, Study for "I’m Half Sick of Shadows" said the Lady of Shallot.
    Estimate: £20,000–30,000.
    This is a sketch for the greatest of Waterhouse’s late canvases, the last painting in a series of pictures inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s poem 'The Lady of Shallot'. The first of the series (Tate) was painted in 1888 and depicts the tragic protagonist embarking on her last voyage, consumed by the curse that had befallen her. This picture was to become Waterhouse’s most famous painting and remains one of the most popular pictures on public display in Britain. In 1894 Waterhouse painted another Lady of Shallot, this time entwined with the threads of her tapestry (Leeds City Art Gallery) but it would be almost twenty years before he returned to the poem to paint ‘I am Half Sick of Shadows’, Said the Lady of Shallot (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). The 1915 painting depicts the earliest episode from the poem that Waterhouse would paint and shows the imprisoned maiden dreaming of unfulfilled love and her frustration at only being able to view the outside world through the reflections in her mirror.

  • Frederick Goodall, Trespassers.
    Estimate: £80,000–120,000.
    The setting for Trespassers is an English wood in spring where bluebells and unfurling bracken are pushing their way through a carpet of leaves. Two children, a sister and her younger brother, have gathered an armful of the bluebells but have been disturbed by the approach of the owner of the woodland. Their expressions convey their apprehension at being caught trespassing and their little dog's startled pose adds to the frisson of tension. These are not the street urchins and vagabonds that we might expect to find in a painting of this title and they are dressed in the smart clothing of the privileged class. The models for Goodall's genre paintings were often members of his own family. His wife Alice, herself a painter and occasional exhibitor, was very beautiful and appears in paintings by her husband. The artist’s daughter, whose name was Rica, also appears in Goodall’s paintings and it is likely that the present subject shows her with one of her two brothers, either Frederick or Herbert.

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw,An Autumnal Scene at Dusk near Leeds.
    Estimate £120,000–180,000.
    An Autumnal Scene at Dusk near Leeds depicts a quiet suburban lane, steeped with the faint mist and fleeting light of a November evening. The leaves have fallen from the trees and lie on the road where the thoroughfare of carriages has gradually flattened them. A maid walks along the pavement, perhaps coming home from work; like many of these paintings, she is the lone figure in an otherwise deserted landscape. Moss blankets the stone walls separating the Jacobean house from the road; the iridescence of the moss perhaps rendered in viridian, a new pigment at the start of Grimshaw’s career in the 1860s. These paintings of quiet lanes are each a unique aggregation of components of suburban Leeds: the Elizabethan and Jacobean houses, the curve of the road, and the gates in the high-stoned wall, each painting with a remarkably individual sunset or sunrise.

  • Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Christ Blessing Children.
    Estimate: £20,000–30,000.
    This design for a stained glass panel, along with four others, appears in Burne-Jones' account book in November 1887. The designs were made for Morris & Company as part of a commission to decorate Brampton Church in Cumberland for its patron George Howard, the ninth Earl of Carlisle. Philip Webb was the architect and Burne-Jones designed no less than fourteen windows for it. This design was for one of five panels for the south aisle, all of which were dedicated to the memory of one of George and Rosalind Howard's eleven children, Bessie Howard. Bessie had been baptised in the church but died only four months after her birth in 1883. It is possible that the child on Christ's knee is a portrait of Bessie or at least symbolic of her in the tender care of Christ in Paradise.

  • John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Pine Woods at Viareggio.
    Estimate: £150,000–200,000.
    Stanhope had a long relationship with Italy. He first visited in 1853 with his then teacher G.F. Watts, and over the next twenty years he frequently spent the winter in Italy due to chronic ill-health. In 1873, he bought a house just outside Florence called Villa Nuti where he moved permanently in 1880. The present picture depicts three local girls collecting cones and branches in the pine forests of Viareggio in Tuscany. The area is still known today for its peaceful forests, and Stanhope conjures before the viewer the very image of the sparsely arranged trees and its dense canopy. 

  • John William Godward, Il Dolce Far Niente.
    Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    Il Dolce far Niente is the title given to at least eight of Godward’s paintings but is applicable to almost his entire oeuvre. Meaning ‘sweet idleness’ it captures the spirit of Godward’s idealist art in which languid beautiful women idle away their time in the sunlit gardens of Roman palaces, cool marble interiors and on terraces overlooking azure oceans. His world was one of carefree hedonism, of romantic liaisons beneath boughs of oleander and dreamy introspection.

  • Sir Alfred James Munnings, After the Fair, Ber Street, Norwich.
    Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    Continually seeking equestrian models for his pictures Munnings was a regular at the East Anglian horse fairs, held on Saturday mornings. He was an avid observer of the colourful characters and enjoyed the lively banter of the dealers and their picturesque clothing. Working quickly in watercolour, he was able to capture the spontaneity of the interactions. Among those he encountered at the horse-fairs was ‘Dan Betts...who wore small silver earrings, and shaved off his moustache for me to put him in a picture, and became so transfigured that his wife and children didn't know him. A kind man and father… Pod and Ned Aldous, types bred in every village since the Stone Age, and another of the same cut—Porky Emmerson—were always ready, if about, to do anything in the standing or sitting in line for a pint.’ (ibid Munnings, p.111-2)

  • James Jacques Joseph Tissot, Fifre de Coldstream Guards.
    Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    Tissot would have been familiar with the Coldstream Guards regiment, as most of its companies had been quartered in London during the 1870s, and the Foot Guards had been based at St John's Wood barracks, close to Tissot's villa at 17 Grove End Road, until about 1876. Coldstream Guards could be seen on duty at several London locations and were present for a number of ceremonial occasions, where the regiment's band was a popular highlight. The young fifer in Tissot's oil sketch is standing on the Parade, a large area with sandy gravel surface in front of the Horse Guards that was used for marching practice (and is now called Horse Guards Parade). Behind him, in the far distance, is the distinctive facade of the Horse Guards, Whitehall, where the army Commander-in-Chief and administration were housed.

  • Joseph Edward Southall, Ariadne in Naxos.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    Ariadne in Naxos , a version of Southall's painting by the same title in the collection of Birmingham City Art Gallery, was painted the same year but in oil rather than tempera. It was a subject favoured by Southall and the oil version hung in the artist's home until his wife's death in 1947. The pictures depict the Minoan Princess Ariadne on the island of Naxos watching her lover Theseus depart in his ship - a subject favoured by late Victorian painters.

  • Arthur Wardle, Stealth. Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    Wardle was arguably the greatest animal painter of his generation. Stealth , featuring two leopards, is exemplary of his inimitable ability to render the sleek contours and gleaming skins of big cats hunting in the wild. It is one of a number of paintings of exotic animals begun in 1891 when Wardle exhibited Panthers Resting at the Royal Academy. From this point on he produced many paintings of leopards hunting; Leopards on the Lookout (Sotheby’s, New York, 9 May 2013, lot 45) which similarly portrays two leopards stealthily perched on a mountainside staring intently at their prey, their glinting eyes and crouched forms highlight the threat they pose to their prey. Likewise, Indian Leopards (offered Sotheby’s, London, 22 May 2014, lot 234), depicts two leopards hunting game; the recurring motif of the leopard pair serves to illustrate Wardle’s mastery of the wild cat in every angle whilst also establishing a dialogue between the hunters.

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