Marie Stillman masterpiece tops Bonhams sale

The Last Sight of Fiammetta a forgotten Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece by Marie Stillman (British, 1844-1927) achieved an impressive £290,100 – more than double its top estimate – at Bonhams’ recent 19th Century and British Impressionist Art sale today in London. The work, which had been in the same private collection for more than 50 years, had a pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000.

Charles O’Brien, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Paintings, said: “Marie Stillman was one of the great artists of Pre-Raphaelite circle, and yet only a handful of her works are known – making the emergence of her masterpiece, The Last Sight of Fiammetta, after more than half a century in the same private collection, particularly exciting. The Last Sight of Fiammetta so captivated Rossetti that he decided to create his own version, completed in 1878 (two years after Stillman’s). He even invited Stillman to be his model – a fitting nod to her inspiring work and to her role in the story of the Pre-Raphaelites. I am delighted that this work also captivated the bidders and achieved such a wonderful price.”

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 was 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.

Other highlights of the sale included:

Arthur John Elsley (British, 1861-1952), Love at First Sight, Sold for £113,700.
Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959), The River Dove. Sold for £101,100.
Wilhelm Friedrich Kuhnert (German, 1865-1926), In the Jungle – Tigers. Sold for £75,900.
Arthur John Elsley (British, 1861-1952), His First Shot. Sold for £44,400.
Pierre Jan van der Ouderaa (Belgian, 1841-1915), Foor in de Oude Buers te Antwerpen. Sold for £50,700.

The 75-lot sale made a total of £1,438,905.