Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Helen Rose Huth

oil on canvas 
26 x 21 in. (66 x 53.3 cm.) 

Barbara Bryant, GF Watts Portraits: Fame & Beauty in Victorian Society, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2004, p. 101, fig. 34. 

Until recently, this portrait was traditionally identifed as 'Lady Willoughby de Broke', presumably owing the likely date at which it was painted, the wife of the 17th Baron. It was hence purchased by the Peter Moores Foundation for display at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, the former seat of the Willoughby de Brokes, from where it is now being sold. 

Its re-identification was confirmed when it appeared as a comparative illustration in the catalogue entry for a full length portrait of Helen Rose Huth, included in G F Watts: Portraits, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2004, no. 30. The sitter sat to Watts four times: only Lady Holland, the Pattle sisters, Ellen Terry and Violet Lindsay sat to him more often.

The sitter (née Ogilvy) married Louis Huth, a company director for an insurance firm, in 1855. Almost a generation younger than his siblings, each member of the family were avid collectors: Charles, a director of the Bank of England, purchased works by Linnell and Constable, while Henry collected rare books. Like his friend Rossetti, Louis formed a collection of blue and white porcelain, which he displayed against a foremidable collection of fine and decorative art. His tastes exemplified those of the Aesthetic Movement. He owned Whistler's Symphony in White, no. 3 (Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham) while his wife was also painted by the artist in a picture entitled Arrangement in Black, no. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth. A study in black on black it was no doubt conceived as a counterpoint to Watt's elegaic full length of Mrs Huth, dressed in white, and gesturing to a pug, which was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004 and is now in Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. 

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