Unsung Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece at Bonhams

A Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece that has emerged after more than half a century in the same private collection is one of the highlights in an upcoming sale at Bonhams in September.

While few people outside the art world are familiar with the name Marie Stillman (British, 1844-1927), this remarkable woman was a cherished member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle as friend, model and painter in her own right. Only a handful of Stillman’s works are known which makes the emergence of her masterpiece, The Last Sight of Fiammetta, particularly exciting. Painted in 1876, the work will be offered in the 75-lot 19th Century and British Impressionist Art sale in London on September 21. It is estimated at £70,000-100,000.

The Last Sight of Fiammetta by Marie Stillman

The Last Sight of Fiammetta depicts the central character in Giovanni Boccaccio’s mid-14th century romantic novel Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta. It was inspired by a sonnet, also entitled The Last Sight of Fiammetta, translated from Boccaccio by Stillman’s friend and fellow Pre-Raphaelite, the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The sitter is almost certainly Stillman’s stepdaughter, Lisa who would have been around 13 years old at the time of the painting. The work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876 and at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878.

Peter Rees, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Paintings Sales, said: “This wonderful painting is a timely reminder of Marie Stillman’s great talent – it has justly been called her masterpiece – and its emergence onto the market after more than 50 years is an event worth celebrating. The Last Sight of Fiammetta so captivated Rossetti that he decided to create his own version, completed in 1878. He invited Stillman to be his model – a fitting nod to her inspiring work and to her role in the story of the Pre-Raphaelites.”

Trois jeunes berbères couchées écoutant une quatrième assise jouant de la flûte by Ètienne Dinet

Elsewhere in the sale, other highlights include Trois jeunes berbères couchées écoutant une quatrième assise jouant de la flûte by Ètienne Dinet (French 1861-1929). Few Orientalist artists are remembered as national icons in the countries they depicted. Yet Dinet, a French-born and Paris-trained painter, secured the posthumous reputation of master in Algeria where he lived and worked for almost fifty years. His passion for North Africa and its people was so strong that he eventually converted to Islam in 1905, taking the name Nasrédine. The painter’s knowledge of the Arabic language allowed him access to remote locations and enabled him to capture a truly intimate portrayal of the life of North Africa. The painting has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

In the Jungle – Tigers by Wilhelm Kuhnert

In the Jungle – Tigers by Wilhelm Kuhnert, carries an estimate of £60,000-80,000. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kuhnert often worked directly from nature taking hours to track down his subjects and then sketching the animals in the wild rather than in zoos. His work is characterised by a blend of rapid execution combined with anatomical accuracy – reputedly he never used an eraser on a single drawing or made any corrections to any of his 137 etching plates. He is best known for his striking pictures of lions and tigers, captured in their natural environment.

Jogging on by Sir Alfred Munnings

A watercolour entitled Jogging on by Sir Alfred Munnings (British, 1878-1959), depicts the painter’s own horse, Patrick, and has an estimate of £60,000-£80,000 in the sale. Munnings was a great hunting enthusiast and was often inspired by what he saw in the field. This watercolour, dated 1912, shows hunt followers and the huntsman bringing the hounds to the meet prior to setting off.

Cartoon for a stained-glass window by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Cartoon for a stained-glass window showing The Sermon on the Mount, made for All Saints, Selsley, is by Pre-Raphaelite leader Dante Gabriel Rossetti (British, 1828-1882). The architect G.F. Bodley entrusted the making of stained glass for the church of All Saints at Selsley in Gloucestershire to William Morris and Philip Webb. They in turn recruited the preeminent Pre-Raphaelite artists Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones to create the images. Rossetti drafted in friends and family as models. Elizabeth Siddal sat for the Virgin; Fanny Cornforth is immediately recognisable as the model for the Magdalene; the poet Algernon Swinburne (to whom Rossetti made a gift of The sermon on the Mount cartoon) appears as St John, and the painter Simeon Solomon as St James.  Morris himself was caricatured with tousled hair and dense black beard as St Peter. Rossetti took revenge on the widely loathed art dealer Ernest Gambart, with whom he was in dispute at the time, by depicting him as Judas. This was the first scheme of stained glass to be made by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., and was an important demonstration of how well these various designers could work together to create an effect of harmonious unity. The cartoon carries an estimate of £25,000-35,000.