Monday, February 7, 2011

Evelyn de Morgan - Portrait of Mary De Morgan (?)

signed with monogram (lower left)
oil on canvas
12 x 10 in. (30.5 x 25.4 cm.)

The motif in the left-hand corner of the painting is the joint monogram of William and Evelyn de Morgan, designed by William and used by Evelyn subsequent to their marriage in 1887. The sitter has been tentatively identified as either Mary Beatrice (Molly) or Augustus (Milly) De Morgan, daughters of William's brother Edward Lindsay De Morgan. Milly records William's popularity with all his nieces and nephews, and how his unique vision allowed him to transform the ordinary with "his entertaining language". William also entertained them from afar with letters embellished with mythological animal hybrids. Much of his correspondence with the adult Mary survives, perhaps evidence of a particularly close relationship. In the late 1880s Mary and Milly would have been about 12 and 13 respectively. The girl in the picture seems at ease with the artist; her expression is gentle and thoughtful and her hands casually group around her face. Its intimate composition further suggests an informal family portrait, rather than a more formal commission.

A drawing by Evelyn de Morgan, depicting a face similar to the present sitter's, can be found in the Witt Library archive.

We are grateful to Dr. Lois Drawmer of The De Morgan Foundation for her help preparing this catalogue entry.

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