Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A. (1817-1904)

George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A. (1817-1904)

Portrait of Calliope Coronio, bust length, in a cream dress with a red necklace

oil on canvas
24½ x 20½in. (62.2 x 52.1cm.)
Aglaia Coronio, the sitter's mother
Mrs Watts's MS catalogue of Watts's work, vol. II, p.40

Lot Essay

The sitter was a member of the Ionides family which dominated the Anglo-Greek community in London in the late nineteenth century and played a crucial part in the history of contemporary art and taste. Her mother was Aglaia Coronio, a close friend of Rossetti, Burne-Jones, William Morris and G.F. Watts. Aglaia's elder brother was Constantine Ionides, who formed the well-known collection of paintings now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and her two younger brothers, Luke and Alexander ('Aleco'), had belonged to the so-called 'Paris gang' immortalised by George du Maurier in Trilby. Alexander formed one of the great 'aesthetic' interiors of the day at 1 Holland Park, next door to Aglaia and her husband Theodore Coronio, who settled at 1A in 1869. Yet another sibling, the youngest daughter Chariclea, married the musician Edward Dannreuther, who did so much to promote interest in Wagner in England. (For further information, see Julia Atkins, 'The Ionides Family', Antique Collector, June 1987, pp.86-92).

Calliope, or 'Opie' as she was always known in the family, was born in 1856 and was her parents' eldest child, a boy, John, arriving a year later. 'We all adored her when we were children', wrote her cousin, Euterpe Craies in her unpublished memoirs, 'she was jolly and full of fun ... and was a great organiser of expeditions. We used to spend happy days together at the Crystal Palace ...' In 1872 she visited Athens with her mother, and in 1889, at what was considered the very late age of thirty-three, she married Parasqueva Sechiari, a man probably a good deal older than herself since his sister Isabella had married Calliope's uncle Alecco. A child, Mary, was born in 1892. Calliope died in 1906 of angina, and may have been in poor health for some time as her mother seems to have anticipated her death saying 'I shall die if Calliope dies.' She was as good as her word. Calliope died on Sunday, 19 August, and the following day Aglaia committed suicide by stabbing herself with scissors.

Our picture must be the 'sketch portrait' which was recorded by Mrs Watts in her manuscript catalogue as belonging to the sitter's mother. It probably dates from the late 1850s since it seems to show Calliope at the age of two or three. Rossetti, who referred to her as 'the little gypsy', made a drawing of her in coloured chalks in 1869, when she was thirteen. This likeness, showing her wearing Greek national costume, was sold in these Rooms on 13 March 1992, lot 81.

We are grateful to Julia Ionides and Richard Jefferies, Curator of the Watts Gallery, for their help in preparing this entry.

More from Victorian Pictures and Drawings

View All
View All