Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Woman Holding a Dog

pencil and wash
30.5 by 25.5cm., 12 by 10in.
ESTIMATE 15,000-20,000 GBP

up for sale shortly at Sotheby's

‘Waugh sympathised with Rossetti, but he also admired Rossetti’s integrity in forming the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with an aesthetic creed independent of convention. Waugh also admired Rossetti’s perseverance once the movement had drawn the attention of contemptuous critics. Rossetti’s example showed that there was virtue, perhaps even reward, in following one’s own artistic instincts.’ John Howard Wilson, Evelyn Waugh, A Literary Biography, 1924-1966 , 2001, p.32.

Woman Holding a Dog has a distinguished and interesting provenance. It was owned by the Bournemouth solicitor Kerrison Preston and the novelist Evelyn Waugh, two collectors who held a sustained interest in Pre-Raphaelite painting in the twentieth century when the popularity of Victorian art was at its lowest ebb. Preston reproduced the drawing in his book Blake and Rossetti in 1944. The second owner was Waugh, who acquired Victorian paintings assiduously and was related by marriage to William Holman Hunt.

There has been some speculation regarding the model for this drawing. Modern experts have suggested that it depicts Agnes 'Aggie' Manetti, a Scotswoman who posed in a professional capacity for Rossetti for several paintings and drawings in the early 1860s. Rossetti felt that she had a profile that had some similarity to Napoleon and the model for this drawing has similar strong aqualine features to Aggie. It is recorded in George Price Boyce’s diary that she was sitting to Rossetti in October 1862. However Preston felt that the identity of the sitter was Fanny Cornforth.

The earthy and buxom Cornforth was almost certainly Rossetti’s mistress even before his marriage to Lizzie Siddal in May 1860. She became his housekeeper when, following Lizzie’s death in February 1862, he settled at Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. She was the model for several important pictures from the 1860s, including The Blue Bower, Fair Rosamund and Lady Lilith and for numerous drawings and sketches.
The drawing dates from the early 1860s and the tender way the woman caresses the ears of the lap-dog suggests that the model was one that the artist knew well enough to depict so intimately. This perhaps points towards Preston being correct about the identity of the sitter. Although Rossetti was well-known as a lover of animals, this is the only known picture by him in which a model is shown with a dog.

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