• Old Masters and 19th Century A auction at Christies

    Sale 2840

    Old Masters and 19th Century Art

    13 April 2010, Amsterdam

  • Lot 146

    Charles Edward Perugini (Naples 1829-1918 London)

    'But, oh, for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still!'

    Price Realised  


    Charles Edward Perugini (Naples 1829-1918 London)
    'But, oh, for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still!'
    signed, inscribed and dated 'War Fund. 1900. C.E. Perugini.' (lower left) and signed with monogram (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    77.2 x 54.9 cm.

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    Charles (Carlo) Edward Perugini was born in an anglophile Italian family in Naples and moved to England while he was eight. Perugini visited Rome in 1853 and studied with Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) in Paris two years later. There he befriended Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), who was exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle and whom he had met in Rome. Leighton was soon to become one of the great pillars of the late Victorian art establishment and back in England Perugini became one of his many protogès. In 1874, Perugini married Kate Dickens, daughter of the novelist Charles Dickens and widow of the painter Charles Collins, a close friend of the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and younger brother of the novelist Wilkie Collins.

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    The present lot clearly shows the influence of Leightons work on Perugini. Leighton was known for his extremely polished style, based on Greek sculpture. The hands, neck and face are, in the words of The Times, smooth perfections. In a time when impressionism was all the rage, Perugini painted such smooth layers that it is almost hard to believe this woman is nothing but paint. Contrasting with the smooth hands and face however are the slightly rougher brushstrokes by which Perugini composed the womans gown. This possibly shows the influence of Peruginis friend John Everett Millais.

    The title cites lines from Alfred Tennysons poem Break, Break, Break that were popularly used for obituaries. It is possible that Perugini intended them to commemorate the death of his friend and tutor Frederic Leighton, who died a few months before the picture was first exhibited at the Royal Academys Summer Exhibition of 1896. A critic of The Times however, saw no mourning in the picture at all but rather self-consciously waiting for the decisive visit of an admirer.

    When four years later the Boer War broke out, Perugini donated this picture to the Artists War Fund Exhibition, which was held at the Guildhall Gallery in London. The fund was organized to aid those suffering from the war and artists donating were requested to write the words War Fund 1900 after their signature. All pictures in the exhibition were sold at sold at Christies at 24 and 26 February 1900, raising 9,120 8s. The present lot was one of the four works on which the Prince of Wales, the future king Edward VII, had a commission bid.

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    Donated by the artist to the Artist's War Fund, 1900. Pictures, drawings in Water Colour, pastel and pencil etchings, and bronze and metal work, Presented by the artists for The Artists' War Fund; Christie's, London, 24-26 February 1900, lot 128.


    London, Royal Academy, 1896, no 490.