Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Emily Hunt 1836-1922
Watercolour over traces of pencil heightened with bodycolour and scratching out; signed and dated 'Emily Hunt/1861' and inscribed 'No. 1. Jealous Jessie./Miss Emily Hunt/Tor Villa/Campden Hill/Kensington-W.' on label verso.
10 x 14 inches
Provenance: Collection of Thomas Combe, Oxford
Thence by descent to his wife Martha Combe, 1872
Martha Combe Executors' Sale, J.R. Mallam and Son, St. Paul's Schools, Oxford, 23 February 1894, lot 99
Purchased from the above sale by John Crossley, nephew of Thomas Combe
Thence by descent
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1862, no 976
Literature: Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 2006, volume II, p. 96
This watercolour by Emily Hunt depicts one of Thomas Combe's collie dogs in Combe's garden in Oxford. Combe lived at North House in the quadrangle of the Clarendon Press, of which he was Superintendent. He was an important patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, and in particular Emily's brother William, who loved him like a father.
In 1857 Emily moved in with William Holman Hunt to 1 Tor Villa, Kensington so that he could teach her to draw. Mentoring her work took up a good deal of his time, and 11 May 1862 he complained to Thomas Combe: 'when I get up from my own work to rest my eyes for a minute or two. I find my sisters work so backward that I have to labor at that till its time to leave off' (MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS.Eng.lett.c.296 fol.92v). At that date Jealous Jessie was on view at the Royal Academy as entirely the work of Emily Hunt. However, the handling of the dog's face is much more detailed and assured than the rest of the sheet; the treatment of the eye and the way in which the shadows round it are delineated are entirely characteristic of William Holman Hunt's practice. He may also have suggested the unusual composition the portrayal of a dog holding a peacock feather in her mouth is not necessarily something an inexperienced artist would have chosen to paint.
The watercolour is in its original composition frame. The pattern on the frieze is identical to that of a carved frame Holman Hunt commissioned in 1861 for the small version of The Hireling Shepherd (illustrated in Bronkhurst 2006, volume II, p. 301). He was working on that painting in Oxford in August 1861; the date inscribed on Jealous Jessie suggests that Emily accompanied him on this visit.
Thomas Combe was extremely fond of his collie dogs and may well have commissioned the watercolour from Emily Hunt, which would account for its expensive frame. A sketch by Holman Hunt of Jessie in profile to the right, regarding another of Combe's collies, Tot, heads a letter of February 1863 to Hunt's nephew Teddy Wilson (FIGURE 1). A carving of the face of Jessie decorates the base of the easternmost column in the north aisle of St Barnabas', Oxford, a Tractarian church endowed by the Combes that opened in 1869.
Pictures by Emily Hunt are extremely rare. A portrait watercolour of 1868 in the British Museum Print Room (2000,0520.7) was executed a year after Emily fell out with her brother. It suggests that Hunt's teaching did not have a lasting influence. But Jealous Jessie reveals that with more than a little help from her brother Emily Hunt was capable of painting a work that is entirely Pre-Raphaelite in spirit.
We are grateful to Dr Judith Bronkhurst for her assistance.