Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Royal Princess

Archibald Wakley (1873-1906)
A Royal Princess

signed and dated 'ARCHIBALD/WAKLEY/1903' (lower right) and further signed, inscribed and dated 'No 1./A Royal Princess/"But a vain shadow./If one considereth;/Vanity of Vanities,/As the Preacher saith."/C. Rosetti [sic.]/Archibald Wakley/76A Monmouth Road./Westbourne Grove./Bayswater./London W.' (on an old label attached to the reserve)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour heightened with gold 
19¾ x 24¾ in. (50.2 x 62.9 cm.)

Wakley's inspiration for this sumptuous depiction of a Medieval Royal court was Christina Rossetti's 1868 poem Mother Country, in which she imagines a heaven where Queen and handmaid will be equals, reflecting in the final verse on how life is but 'a vain shadow' of the new life that will begin after death.

A follower of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, as evident in both the subject and style of this watercolour, Wakley's short-lived career showed great promise and he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1906, the same year in which he was brutally murdered in his studio.

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