Stanhope was a second generation Pre-Raphaelite, drawing inspiration particularly from Edward Burne-Jones, who, though two years Stanhope’s junior, proved to be the most significant influence on his work. The admiration was mutual, Burne-Jones writing that, “[Stanhope’s] colour is beyond anything the finest in Europe”
(Burne-Jones quoted in John Christian ed., The Last Romantics
, 1989, p.79). In Memorial
is a re-discovery only known from a description; ‘a beautiful study of a very sweet and pathetic expression.’
(Elise Lawton Smith, Evelyn Pickering de Morgan and the Allegorical Body
, 2002, p.231). The sentiment echoes a subject painted by Millais in 1883, Dropped from the Nest
(Christies, London, 2 May 2013, lot 213) whilst the dry leaves and wicker basket are reminiscent of Millais’ famous Autumn Leaves
of 1856 (Manchester City Art Gallery). The melancholic subject of the girl grieving for the dead skylark that she has found while clearing fallen leaves is emphasised by the autumnal leaves signifying the passing of the year. Whether there is any symbolic relevance to the anchors entwined by dolphins on the girl’s beautifully-painted blouse, is unclear but it may be meant to suggest that she has lost someone at sea.
Stanhope’s painting may have been inspired by Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam, but the subject could equally have been inspired by an observed event or a more general notion of pathos. Stanhope’s niece Evelyn de Morgan painted a picture entitled In Memoriam, a much more classicised image (de Morgan Foundation).