Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Portrait of Annie Miller, bust-length, in profile to left

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Portrait of Annie Miller, bust-length, in profile to left
pencil and stump
15½ x 12 in. (39.4 x 30.5 cm.)
Bequeathed by the sitter to her daughter, Miss Thomson, from whom it was bought by Mrs Janet Camp Troxell.
with Agnew's, London.
Virginia Surtees, The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Catalogue Raisonné, Oxford, 1971, I, p. 173, no. 357.
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Double Work of Art, 1976, no. 6.
Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, and Ishibashi Museum of Art, Japan, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1990-91, no. 137.
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Lot Essay

Annie Miller (1835-1925) was a working-class girl from a Chelsea slum. Of great beauty but easy virtue, she was noticed by Holman Hunt and, somewhat incongruously, modelled for the 'kept' woman on the brink of reformation in The Awakening Conscience (Tate Britain), his modern life subject of 1853-4. Hunt in fact fell heavily for Annie and, like so many Victorian men in his position, hoped to educate her, save her from her 'life of sin', and marry her. When he left for the Holy Land in January 1854, he asked Rossetti to keep an eye on her, not letting her sit to unsuitable artists or otherwise go astray.

He should have known better. Ford Madox Brown described Annie in his diary as having a 'siren-like' quality that, he implied, men found irresistible. This was certainly true of Rossetti, who not only used Annie as a model but allowed her to sit to others, flirted with her outrageously and took her to Cremorne Gardens and other dubious resorts. Not surprisingly, this not only annoyed his fiancée, Lizzie Siddal, but aroused the jealousy of Hunt when he returned from the East in February 1856. 'They all seem mad about Annie Miller', Brown recorded on 6 July that year, 'and poor Hunt has had a fever about it.'
Annie appears again in another diary, that of G.P. Boyce, who was also among her admirers. In January 1858 he noted that Hunt was still hoping to marry her once 'her education both of mind and manners shall have been completed', but two years later, 'finding he could not get her to do what he wanted to make her a desirable wife..., nor to wean herself from old objectionable habits', he broke off the engagement and a good deal of acrimony ensued. Hunt blamed Rossetti as much as anyone, and their relationship never recovered.

Annie makes her last appearance in Boyce's diary on 16 June 1862 when he saw her at the International Exhibition at South Kensington, 'looking as handsome as ever, (and) walking with a young man, rather a swell.' This was probably Thomas Ranelagh Thomson, the cousin of a former lover, whom she married the following year. Many years later Hunt met her accidentally on Richmond Hill, by now 'a buxom matron with a carriage full of children'. He too was now happily married, and after talking they parted amicably, old grievances mutually forgiven.

Annie modelled for several of Rossetti's pictures, notably Helen of Troy (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), an oil on 1863 that captures her 'siren-like' allure. Virginia Surtees also includes six independent studies in her catalogue raisonné of Rossetti's work. Among them are two which the sitter bequeathed to one of her daughters by T.R. Thomson, who in due course sold them to the American Rossetti scholar Janet Camp Troxell. The present study is one of these drawings. The other, a full-length sketch of Annie reclining in a chair, facing right, was sold in these Rooms on 9 June 2005, lot 108.

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