Sir John Everett Millais, Bt., P.R.A. (1829-1896)
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt., P.R.A. (1829-1896)

Dropped from the Nest

Details
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt., P.R.A. (1829-1896)
Dropped from the Nest
signed with monogram and dated '18/83' (lower left)
oil on canvas
41 x 27½ in. (104.1 x 69.8 cm.)
Provenance
Bought from the artist, with copyright, by the Fine Art Society, London.
Sir William Cuthbert Quilter by 1884 and at least until 1886.
Ralph Brocklebank; his sale, Christie's, London, 29 April 1893, lot 115 (unsold, 1,200 gns).
Mrs Ernest Hills by 1898.
F.E. Hills; his sale, Knight, Frank & Rutley, 27 June 1929, lot 20.
The Trustees of the late Sir Thomas Jaffrey; Christie's, London, 14 July 1972, lot 60 (6500 gns to Robert Mossman).
Robert B. Mossman; Christie's, London, 13 October 1978, lot 72, where purchased by the present vendor.
Literature
Magazine of Art, June 1883, p. xxxiii.
Marion Spielmann, Millais and his Works, 1898, p. 178, no. 250.
J. G. Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, 1899, vol. II, pp. 481 and 495.
Frank Davis, 'The Wayward Goddess of Fortune', Country Life, vol. 164, no. 4248, (December 7, 1978), p. 1958 (illustrated).
Elaine Shefer, 'The "Bird in the Cage" in the History of Sexuality: Sir John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt', Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 1, no. 3, 1991, p. 446-480 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Fine Art Society, June 1883.
Brighton, 1884, no. 81.
Manchester, 1885, no. 434.
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Millais Exhibition, 1886, no. 104.
London, Royal Academy, Millais, Winter Exhbition, 1898, no. 50.

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Lot Essay

Dropped from the Nest is emblematic of Millais's late style in its masterly brushwork, subtle tonalities, contemporary ideal of female beauty, and evocation of childhood innocence and inner lives. It was first exhibited at the Fine Art Society who then arranged for it to be reproduced for a broader market.

Originally the sitter was Winifred Agneta Yorke Bevan (d. 1959). She was the first daughter of Roland Yorke Bevan (1848-1923) and Agneta Olivia Kinnaird (1850-1940) who had been married on 7 June 1874. Her mother was the fourth daughter of Arthur Fitzgerald, 10th Lord Kinnaird (1814-1887). Winifred Bevan would later marry William Sidney, 5th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley (1859-1945), and their son, William Philip Sidney, would be 1st Viscount De L'Isle and 6th Baron De L'Isle and Dudley, the last British Governor-General of Australia.

In response to a letter from Effie, Winifred's mother Agneta Bevan wrote to Millais on 18 March 1883 from her home at 31 Rutland Gate chagrined that her daughter's face might be painted out of the final picture, and asking if he would "kindly alter the frock & the colour of the sash. That frock gave me an immensity of trouble to get it exactly suitable, & I have set my heart on having her painted in it, & naturally I should not like it to appear to be a copy of a picture just painted & exhibited when it was my own idea. It suits her also so very well that I could not bear to see it in a picture of another child, nor the sash either, because I wish her to be painted in a pink sash it would be very disagreeable to me to see the figure of my child with another head! ... After all the trouble & interest you have taken, I feel very sorry that the result has not pleased you better. I have not told Winnie yet, & my husband is away, so I don't know what they will say!"

Whether or not Millais retained Winifred Bevan's features, he did not appear to have adjusted the pink of the sash nor the white of the frock. And there is no record of her sitting for another of Millais's pictures. Winifred's mother, in her own mind pressed for time, wrote that she would "try to get her photographed at once, & in this frock as I must try & not let all her babyish beauty depart without leaving any trace behind, as I always hoped to have her painted this winter."1

Millais well captured the girl's "babyish beauty," and the bloom of her cheeks that match the light rose of the hair bow and sash - effects far beyond the possibilities of monochromatic photography at this time. The sylvan background with its spray of bent-stemmed native bluebell to the left and right locate the scene in spring, and these plants along with the juvenile mistle thrush in her hands, represent still current ideals of native English species.

There are a number of photographs of the work in progress, the first two showing the sitter with shoulder-length hair, without a bow or apron, and holding an apple instead of the bird.2 The clear symbolism of the fruit and its link to religious themes of original sin were then mitigated by Millais's insertion of the young thrush, collected and displayed as a mark of tender innocence seeking shelter and comfort. This puts this work squarely in the popular revival of the eighteenth-century fancy picture, a field in which Millais had been both progenitor and its most successful practitioner.3 Indeed, Dropped from the Nest resembles similarly posed girls such as young Ruby Streatfield in The Captive of c.1881-2 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) who is simply turned a quarter rotation to the left, and the bow and sash are little changed from those worn by Edie Ramage for the hugely successful Cherry Ripe of 1879 (private collection). Even the broad washes of paint and pitted surface were calculated to resemble such prototypes by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and George Romney. But the gaze off to the right, the sensitivity in her expression, and the hapless songbird in her cupped and joined hands gives the picture a sharper focus than its antecedents. As with so many of Millais's finest pictures of this later period of his career, Dropped from the Nest represents an appealing balance between aesthetic beauty and deeper sentiment.

Previous owners include Sir William Cuthbert Quilter, Bt., M.P., who possessed Millais's Joan of Arc (1865), The Rt. Hon. John Bright, M.P. (1880), and Murthly Moss, Perthshire (1887, unlocated). His brother was the notable art critic Harry Quilter, and frequent writer on Millais. It then passed into the hands of Ralph Brocklebank of Childwall Hall near Liverpool who also owned Millais's The Wolf's Den (1862-3, unlocated), and then possibly to Frank Ernest Hills (1851-1896) of Redleaf, Penshurst, Kent, inheritor of the F.C. Hills & Co. Chemical Manufactures fortune, and following to his wife Constance (née Constance Melanie Wynne-Roberts, d. 1932) who would twice be painted by John Singer Sargent. She owned an impressive collection including Gainsborough's Suffolk Landscape (mid-1750s, Kimbell Art Museum), dispersing them at auction three years before her death.

In 1978 the picture sold for a then-record price for a work by the artist.4

1 Unpublished letters to J.E. Millais Found Amongst the 4-Part Collection of Letters from Friends to Effie, Part 3 - 1879/1884, number 3/105, collection of and transcribed by Sir Geoffroy Richard Everett Millais and gratefully used with his permission.
2 Photograph Album in the Millais family, information from Malcolm Warner.
3 See A. Smith, 'Fancy Pictures' in Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith, Millais, ex. cat. Tate, London, 2007, pp. 172-173.
4 F. Davis, 'The Wayward Goddess of Fortune', Country Life, vol. 164, no. 4248 (7 December 1978), p. 1958.

We are grateful to Jason Rosenfeld, Distinguished Chair and Professor of Art History, Marymount Manhattan College, New York, for help with this catalogue entry.

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