Overview

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

Monna Vanna

Details
After Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Monna Vanna
oil on canvas
35¼ x 33¼ in. (89.6 x 84.4 cm.)
Provenance
J.E.L. Orpen, and by descent.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

The present picture is a faithful copy after Rossetti's Monna Vanna (1866; Tate). One of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite images, it featured on the catalogue cover for the gallery's seminal exhibition: The Pre-Raphaelites, Tate, London, March-May 1984. Ironically, the painting perhaps best embodies those qualities which allowed Rossetti to diverge from the brotherhood's original creed of truth to nature and literary symbolism. Lacking apparent narrative, it impresses by sensory means as an evocation of splendour. Monna Vanna was originally titled Venus Veneta and represented, according to Rossetti: 'the Venetian ideal of female beauty'. Alexa Wilding modelled for the artist; a red-head with sculpted features, she also appears in contemporary works such as Regina Cordium.

The identity of the copyist remains a mystery. In the past scholars have referred to our picture as 'School of Rossetti' - implying that it is roughly contemporary with the artist's life. It is most likely to date from the turn-of-the-century, when decadence was much in vogue. It was obviously done by an accomplished hand; the material textures, in particular, replicate some of the creamy richness of the original.

The provenance is from the family of J.E.L. Orpen, who are distinguished by descent from the same established Irish family as the artist Sir William Orpen (1878-1931). Even when coincidental, such artistic intersections are intriguing - particularly when we consider how much Lowry liked Rossetti.
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