Monday, March 8, 2010
Simeon Solomon - Portrait of Fanny Eaton
signed with monogram and dated l.r. 2/10/ 60
7 by 6¾ in.
Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 21,600 GBP
This is a portrait drawing of Mrs Eaton, a model of African extraction who was much in demand among the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic circles of artists in the late 1850s and 1860s.
This is a portrait drawing of Mrs Eaton, a model of African extraction who was much in demand among the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic circles of artists in the late 1850s and 1860s. She had prominent cheek-bones and a strong chin, while her cheeks and eyes appeared rather hollow. Her face therefore showed as a variety of powerful planes, and lent itself to a sculptural style of drawing. In addition, she had a mass of dark hair, worn on the back and sides of her head and parted at the centre of her head, and which lent a distinctive and - in the context of mid-Victorian English art - most unusual appearance.
Simeon Solomon seems first to have drawn Mrs Eaton in November 1859, in preparation for the figures of Jochabed and Miriam in his painting The Mother of Moses (Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware). Two drawings, each related to one of these two figures who were mother and daughter but apparently both showing Mrs Eaton, are in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The finished painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1860. The present drawing, which shows Mrs Eaton's head and face looking to the left, was made the following October.
Joanna Boyce made a study of Mrs Eaton in 1861, showing her head and shoulders in profile, in preparation for a painting called A Sibyl (the sketch is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut). Mrs Eaton was the model for Albert Moore's The Mother of Sisera (Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle), also of 1861. In 1865, she was used by D.G. Rossetti for the figure of the bridesmaid in his The Beloved (Tate). Rossetti's drawing of her head made in preparation for the painting is in the Stanford Museum, California. In August 1865 Rossetti responded to an enquiry from Ford Madox Brown about her, telling Brown that her address was '24 Cromer Street, Gray's Inn Road', and explaining that 'She isn't Hindoo but mulatto', and that 'She has a very fine head & figure - a good deal of Janey [Morris]' (quoted, W.E. Fredeman et al (eds), The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Cambridge 2002-, III, p.322).
Mrs Eaton seems to have given up modelling and disappears from the artistic scene after the middle of the decade. No further biographical information is forthcoming; it is possible that she was the wife of the portrait photographer G.C. Eaton, who was also operating in the 1860s.