DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI (1828-1882)
PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848)
Portrait of Alexa Wilding, Profile to the Right (England, 1866)
Red and black chalk and wash on paper
Signed with monogram and dated 1866
William Alwyn; his sale:
Sotheby's London, The Alwyn Sale: Fine Eighteenth Century Drawings and Paintings, 14th November 1962, lot 100
L. S. Lowry RA (1887-1976
L. S. Lowry's estate; sold at:
Christie's, London, English Drawings and Watercolours, 18th December 1984, lot 47
Private Collection, Canada, to 2000
Virginia Surtees, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a Catalogue Raisonné, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1971, volume 1, catalogue number 558, page 204 (misdated 1868; see her letter below)
Shelly Rohde, A Private View of L. S. Lowry, Collins, London 1979, plate XXVIII (showing the bedroom of the artist, L S Lowry, one of the principal Pre-Raphaelite collectors of his day with this portrait hanging by the door.)
Maria Teresa Benedetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sasoni, Florence 1984, catalogue number 269, illustrated page 260
Virginia Surtees, mss. letter to John Shearer, 19 March 1985:
I write at once - your letter has just reached me - so I hope you will forgive this 'petit bleu' as I haven't an adequate stamp to hand and I want to reassure you immediately that MINE was the error. I am so sorry you had a moment's doubt. I see in my catalogue raisonné that I have corrected the date to '1866'. It is a fine drawing. I wish I could tell you who the sitter might be. When Christie's had it for sale in December I went to see it and I was asked then if I could put a name to the sitter. I only know who it is NOT! No one could draw hair like Rossetti. I envy your purchase. I am keeping the photographs which you have so kindly allowed me to do.
Manchester City Art Gallery, A Pre-Raphaelite Passion, The Private Collection of L. S. Lowry, April-May 1977, number 7
Milan, Academi di Belle Arte and Abruzzo, Casa di Dante, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1984, number 269, illustrated page 260
London, Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, The Brotherhood of Ruralists and the Pre-Raphaelites, June - July 2005
The Lightbox, Woking, Visionary Victorians: British & European Painting 1850 – 1900, 9th May - 5th July 2009
Description / Expertise
After the death of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, in 1862, Rossetti lived in Chelsea where he was a neighbour and friend of Whistler. The aesthetic paintings and drawings he made here became a formative influence on the development of ‘art for art’s sake’ in Britain; his sensuous portraits of female figures evoking the art of the Venetian Renaissance. Dante Gabriel Rossetti chose a variety of voluptuous models during the 1860s to sit for him, including Alexa Wilding and his mistress, Fanny Cornforth. Although Virginia Surtees has not identified the sitter, it is, in our opinion, a portrait of Alexa Wilding. This portrait head clearly compares to her likeness in Monna Vanna (1866), Veronica Veronese (1870-2) and The Bower Meadow (1871-2). Rossetti’s stylised heads are naturally a poetic fusion of the ideal model and his mental picture of his muse.
Frederick Sandys had first met the Pre-Raphaelites in 1857 through his lampoon of Sir John Everett Millais’ St Isumbras at the Ford, a print entitled The Nightmare, which contained caricatures of Millais, Rossetti, Hunt and Ruskin. Sandys was a superb draughtsman and a master of the pastel technique. It was he who encouraged and taught Rossetti to work in coloured chalks and it was no coincidence that Rossetti produced a series of strong chalk heads and full-length subjects in 1866, the year that Frederick Sandys stayed at his house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.