It is her centenary year, of course, but there are an amazing number of images of Jane Morris in the news right now, as well as the two modest exhibitions that I've been involved with, at the National Portrait Gallery [it moves to Kelmscott Manor in July] and Cartwright Hall Bradford [moving to Port Sunlight next week].
Hot on the heels of the stunning Pandora at Sotheby's a few days ago [which failed to reach its reserve so should still be available, if you are interested...] is a stupendous red chalk study for Mariana, now with Rupert Maas. Here below are the details from his current catalogue:
(No explanation however of the identify of ‘S.H.G’ who attached the sub-Rossettian verses to the drawing in 1919 – and in line 6 evidently wrote ‘clips’ not ‘elips’)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
Coloured chalks; monogrammed, squared for transfer, and dated 1868.
Inscribed on backboard 'From the collection of / Mrs. F.S. Ellis/ "Among the chalks on A Study.....the first/ (and in this frame) a portrait in reddish crayons, seated, full face, with Spanish roses in a glass jar behind"/ of D.G Rossetti by W. Sharp, p. 204 see also appendix no. 180 where it is called "Lady at a Window" F.S Ellis/ see also Dante Gabriel Rossetti by H.C. Marillier/ p. 261 no. 366 date 1868 Mrs Morris (in oil)/ Studies 1-/ no. 2-/no. 3 Differently arranged in the possession of/ F.S. Ellis, Exhibited B.F.A 1883/ no. 44'
34 3/4 x 27 1/4 in.
Further labelled with:
What was the thought within those grey-blue eyes?
What was the word upon those rich full lips-
The very bow of love? What dim eclipse
Clouded thy heart's desire? In piteous wise
The eyelids droop + fall: doth no hope rise
To cheer thy way? What desperate sorrow elips
Thy soul too close for joy?- Red sunset dips
Beneath thy west, + thy spent gladness dies.
Yet still above it waves brown-tinted hair,
Shading thy sorrow, like a mist the morn;
And thou look'st forth, as one who fain would keep
Hidden the secret of thy weary Care,
waiting for death + praying it come soon-
For is there any good in life save sleep?
March 15, 1919'
PROVENANCE: Frederick Startridge Ellis; his widow after 1901
with Frost & Reed, 1947
with The Fine Art Society
with Leicester Galleries, bt. £126 by
Virginia Surtees, 1950
EXHIBITED: Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, Pictures, Drawings, Designs and Studies by the late Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1883, no. 44
Leicester Galleries, London, The Victorian Romantics, 1949, no. 61
Royal Academy, London, Rossetti Exhibition, 1973, no. 328 as 'Mariana: Study'
LITERATURE: William Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A Record and Study, London, 1882, p. 204, and Chronological List no. 180 entitled 'Lady at a Window'
H.C. Marillier, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Illustrated Memorial of his Art and Life, London, 1899, no. 366, incorrectly entered as 'Study No. 3'
Oswald Doughty and J. R. Wahl, eds. Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Clarendon Press; Oxford, 1965, p. 923.
Virginia Surtees, The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882), Oxford University Press, 1971, vol 1, p.122, cat. no. 213B, ill. vol 2 plate 305
The Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2014, p. 22, ill.
William Bell Scott described Jane Morris as ‘…the ideal personification of poetical womanhood. In this case the hair was not auburn, but black as night; unique in face and figure, she was a queen, a Proserpine, a Medusa, a Circe - but also, strangely enough, a Beatrice, a Pandora, a Virgin Mary.’ She was indeed an extraordinary looking woman, who became Rossetti’s great muse and love after Lizzie Siddal, and was as pervasive a presence in Rossetti's later work as Lizzie had been in his early watercolours and drawings. It is Jane’s face that we see in many of his most famous oil paintings: Aurea Catena, Reverie and La Pia (all1868), in Mariana (1870), Pandora (1871), Proserpine (versions 1871-82), Venus Astarte (1877), La Donna della Finestra (1879), and in The Day Dream (1880). William Rossetti said ‘It seemed a face created to fire his imagination, and to quicken his powers – a face of arcane and inexpressible meaning.’
Born in 1839, the daughter of an Oxford stablehand, Jane Burden came to the attention of the Pre-Raphaelite circle in the summer of 1857, when Rossetti, Morris and Burne-Jones were painting murals at the Oxford Union. Rossetti noticed her at the theatre and, struck, asked her to sit for him. The attraction was instant, but he was already engaged to Lizzie Siddal, and it was Morris, who had also fallen for her, that Jane married in 1859. Our drawing is one of the first that Rossetti drew of Jane at the onset of a period of renewed intimacy between them, nearly ten years after they had first met. Jane’s husband cannot have been very happy – years later he said ‘Sometimes Rossetti was an angel, and sometimes he was a damned scoundrel’. Jane sat for Rossetti in March 1868, and again in December. George Price Boyce wrote in his diary after a visit to Rossetti’s studio on March 27th ‘He has made beautiful studies for pictures from Mrs. Morris....’ His friend WB Scott wrote at the end of the year: 'Gabriel has not retried painting, nor seen any doctor, nor seen the sweet Lucretia Borgia [meaning Jane Morris]. I have now come to the conclusion… - that the greatest disturbance in his health and temper… is caused by an uncontrollable desire for the possession of the said L.B.' Our drawing is close to the Kelmscott oil portrait, Jane Morris. A related drawing, also dated 1868, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, is closer to the oil of Mariana (1870, Aberdeen Art Gallery) that Rossetti painted for his patron William Graham, who, according to Marillier, had wanted a replica of the Kelmscott portrait, but took Mariana as a compromise. All three treatments relate back to our drawing, which was one of the earliest of a new kind that Rossetti intended to be framed and displayed, rather than to be used for preparatory studies, and which became an important source of income to him. They are richly drawn in layers of chalk of subtly different colours, sometimes over two sheets of tinted paper, joined horizontally or vertically, and are highly finished. To sell them he relied upon his dealer, the rackety Charles Augustus Howell: five from this period were offered to the solicitor Leonard Valpy and three to the Glasgow MP William Graham, whist the dealers Agnew bought others. Rossetti’s dealings with Howell were chaotic, with both men constantly ‘short of tin’, making it difficult to identify specific drawings from extant correspondence. However, it is possible to piece together the strange story of how our drawing entered the collection of the wealthy publisher Frederick Startridge Ellis (1830-1901):
In February 1868 one of Rossetti’s water-colours, Lucrezia Borgia that he had painted in 1860, was offered at Christie's at the sale of the deceased collector Benjamin Godfrey Windus; Rossetti was concerned that it should not sell for too little, and devalue his pictures, so Howell arranged to bid it up from £25 to £75, with the help of Ellis. This rather murky deal seems to have generated a long-standing debt owed by Rossetti to Ellis of £50 (although Lucrezia was actually bought at the sale by the shipping magnate Frederick Leyland - according to the Tate, where the picture is now, Rossetti revised the face. Now Lucrezia has Annie Miller's hair with Jane Morris's features). Two years later in April 1870, Rossetti wrote to Ellis: ‘I find on enquiry that I owe you £20 of the account sent & that Howell remains owing you the first £10. Now that H. explains about the drawing & I know which one it is, I remember I did tell him he was not to sell it at all. I do not mind your having it & no doubt you can arrange with H.’ (William E. Fredeman, The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Cambridge, 2004, 70.85). It appears that this letter refers to our drawing, and that Ellis did not acquire it until 1870. Ellis became very important to Rossetti in that year, by publishing Rossetti’s early poems to Lizzie Siddal (Howell had dug up the manuscript of from her grave the year before). They were a great success and launched Rossetti as a poet, realising at last his youthful ambition to become famous by his pen, not his brush, and alleviating his money worries at a stroke. In 1874, Ellis took over Rossetti's half of the joint tenancy with William Morris of Kelmscott Manor, and by the time of Rossetti’s death Ellis owned at least seven pictures by him, including two important oils, La Bella Mano of 1875 and La Donna della Finestra of 1879.
AND FOR THOSE WITHIN REACH OF HAMMERSMITH ON SATURDAY, AN IMPORTANT TALK BY FLORENCE BOOS AT KELMSCOTT HOUSE.
|Saturday 28th June at 2:15pm||Unprintable Lyrics? Morris’s Unpublished Poems 1868-73|
Florence Boos Morris wrote more than two dozen shorter lyrics during the period in which Jane Morris conducted an affair with D. G. Rossetti. Some of these appeared in relative obscurity during his lifetime, and May Morris included others (but not all) of them in her posthumous editions of her father’s work. Now that we have a full edition of Jane Morris’s correspondence prepared by Frank Sharp and Jan Marsh, it seems appropriate to (re)consider Morris’s personal responses to his situation in his poems, and some of the ways in which they may have influenced his subsequent literary and non-literary endeavours. In this talk Professor Boos will attempt to interpret several of these poems, assess their worth as personal lyrics, and offer conjectures for the reasons he and his daughter may have obscured their unity by withholding or releasing them in the ways they did
. Florence Boos is Professor of English at the University of Iowa where she teaches Victorian poetry, non-fiction prose and cultural studies. Her research interests include Pre-Raphaelite art and literature, the life and works of William Morris and nineteenth-century social, political and intellectual history.