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

Portrait of Emma Elizabeth Brandling, later Lady Lilford

George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A. (1817-1904)
Portrait of Emma Elizabeth Brandling, later Lady Lilford
signed 'G.F. Watts' (lower left)
oil on canvas, in a feigned oval
23¾ x 19½ in. (60.5 x 49.5 cm)
Bought from the artist by Charles Hilditch Rickards in 1872 or soon after (+); Christie's, London, 2 April 1887, lot 15 (395 gns to Agnew).
Joseph Ruston (+); Christie's, London, 21 May 1898, lot 55 (650 gns to Agnew).
J.L. McFarlene, Glasgow.
with Dundas Fine Art, Edinburgh.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 6 March 1981, lot 57.
Mrs Watts's manuscript catalogue (Watts Gallery), p. 95. P. Bate, Art at the Glasgow Exhibition 1901, London, 1901, p. 32.
W.K. West and R. Pantini, G.F. Watts, 1904, pl. 43.
M.S. Watts, George Frederic Watts: The Annals of an Artist's Life, London, 1912, vol. I, p. 202.
Probably Royal Manchester Institution, Pictures and Sculpture: G.F. Watts, Esq., R.A., 1880, no. 2, 34 or 54.
Glasgow, International Exhibition, 1901, no. 635.
Wolverhampton, Art and Industrial Exhibition, 1902.
Glasgow, East End Industrial Exhibition, 1903.

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Lot Essay

Emma Brandling, daughter of Robert William Brandling, frequented the salon that Sara Prinsep established at Little Holland House, Kensington, in the 1850s. In 1859 she married Thomas Paurys, who succeded to the title of Baron Lilford in 1861. He was a nephew of Henry Edward Fox, fourth Baron Holland, who owned Holland House, the 'big' house nearby, of which Little Holland House was the dower house. Emma died in 1884 and her husband in 1896.

G.F. Watts, who lived at Little Holland House as a sort of resident genius and painted many of the distinguished or glamorous people who formed Mrs Prinsep's circle, claimed that Emma was 'perhaps the most beautiful of all his sitters'. He made a number of studies of her, and is said to have drawn inspiration from her head when painting the figure of King Alfred in Justice: A Hemicycle of Law-Givers, the fresco in Lincoln's Inn he executed between 1853 and 1859. If Emma was beautiful, however, there were limits to her talents. Tennyson, another of Mrs Prinsep's lions, advised her 'never to sing'.

Watts gave one of his studies of Emma Brandling to his fellow artist William Holman Hunt, and a second is at the Watts Gallery, Compton (see Rowland Alston, The Mind and Work of G.F. Watts, London, 1929, p. 35, no. 99, and Veronica Franklin Gould, G.F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, Yale, 2004, p. 43, fig. 36). The present canvas is a same-size replica of the Watts Gallery picture, painted in 1872 for Charles Hilditch Rickards, the Manchester businessman who bought so many of Watts's works between 1865 and his (Rickards') death in 1887. Rickards had covetted the original, but Watts did not want to part with it. When the present version was exhibited at Glasgow in 1901, it was described by the critic Percy Bate as 'a work of noble feeling, full of beauty and sweetness'.

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