Tuesday, February 26, 2013
signed JA Grimshaw and dated 1864 (lower right); inscribed and signed on an old label
attached to the reverse: Elaine/ by A Grimshaw Woil on canvas
18 by 24 in.
45 by 61cm
ESTIMATE 40,000-60,000 USD
Lot Sold: 35,000 USD
Elaine the fair,
Elaine the loveable,
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat.
Then rose the dumb old servitor, and the dead
Steer'd by the dumb went upward with the flood
In her right hand the lily, in her left The letter
all her bright hair streaming down-
. . . and that clear-featured face
Was lovely, for she did not seem as dead
But fast asleep, and lay as tho' she smiled.
Painted in 1864 Elaine was almost certainly the first of Grimshaw's depictions of the Lily Maid of Astolat of Tennyson's idylls of the King and is datable to the year after another Tennyson subject, Guinevere (Christie's, London, March 26, 1987, lot 99). Dressed in white and lying on her bier on the deck of the boat that will convey her to her death, Elaine is holding a lily in her hand and with her hair laid out around her on the pillow. The background is a romantic city-scape of Gothic turrets and minarets against a beautiful evening sky which is in keeping with the mood of the subject. The story of Elaine's last voyage fascinated Grimshaw for many years and in the 1870s he painted several depictions of Elaine, and the similar subject of the Lady of Shallot, being steered downstream by hooded figures.
Grimshaw named his daughter Elaine (1877-1970), whilst three of his other children were all named after characters from Idylls of the King (Enid, Lancelot, Arthur).
In 1862 the young Grimshaw was invited to exhibit at the Philosophical Hall in Leeds. Among the pictures in the exhibition was Dante Gabriel Rossetti's St George and the Princess Sabra lent by a local collector, Miss Ellen Heaton.
This picture, and probably others like it by Rossetti, clearly influenced Elaine and Guinevere, sharing the same intense colour and Medievalism.