William Holman Hunt, O.M., R.W.S. (1827-1910)
William Holman Hunt, O.M., R.W.S. (1827-1910)

Pearl

Details
William Holman Hunt, O.M., R.W.S. (1827-1910)
Pearl
signed with monogram (lower left)
silverpoint heightened with white and yellow and with scratching out, on brown prepared paper
17¼ x 11 in. (43.8 x 27.9 cm.); and a 1918 edition of Pearl: An English Poem of the Fourteenth Century, London, George W. Jones (2)
Provenance
Commissioned from the artist by Israel Gollancz (1863-1930) and thence by descent to his son
Oliver Gollancz (+); Christie's, London, 23 November 2005, lot 6, where purchased by the present owner.
Literature
Times, 1 December 1890, p. 4.
Daily Telegraph, 3 December 1890, p. 2.
[F.G. Stephens], Athenaeum, 6 December 1890, p. 782.
Pearl, An English Poem of the Fourteenth Century, Edited with a Modern Rendering by Israel Gollancz, London, 1891, illustrated frontispiece.
W. Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, London, 1905, vol. II, illustrated p. 397.
O.J.W. von Schleinitz, William Holman Hunt (Künstler-Monographien vol. LXXXVIII), Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1907, illustrated pl. 117, p. 116.
W. Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2nd ed., London, 1913, vol. II, illustrated p. 333.
Pearl, An English Poem of the XIVth Century: edited, with modern rendering, together with Boccaccio's Olympia, by Sir Israel Gollancz, Litt. D., F.B.A., London, 1921, illustrated frontispiece.
R. Davies (ed.), 'William Holman Hunt, O.M.(1827-1910), Contemporary Notices of his Exhibits in Watercolour', Old Watercolour Society's 13th Annual Volume, 1935-6, 1936, pp. 29-30, 36.
J. Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 2006, cat. no. D382, vol. II, pp. 188-9, illustrated p. 188.
Exhibited
London, Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, Winter Exhibition, 1890-1, no. 303.
London, Leicester Galleries, Exhibition of the Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., 1906, no. 68.
Manchester, City Art Gallery, The Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., 1906, no. 45.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Collective Exhibition of the Art of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., 1907, no. 112.
Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Exhibition of Pictures and Drawings by W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., 1907, no. 40.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery; and London, Victoria and Albert Museum, William Holman Hunt: An Exhibition arranged by the Walker Art Gallery, 1969, no. 251, illustrated pl. 94.
Manchester, City Art Gallery, Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision, October 2008-January 2009, ex-catalogue.
Sale room notice
Please note the medium of the present lot should read as follows and not as stated in the catalogue:
metalpoint heightened with white and yellow and with scratching out, on brown prepared paper

Please note the present drawing has been requested for inclusion in an exhibition covering the history of metalpoint co-curated by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the British Museum, London, that will take place in 2015. Please contact the department for further information.

Brought to you by

Giles Forster
Giles Forster

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Lot Essay

William Holman Hunt executed this highly finished drawing with a view to its being reproduced as the frontispiece to Pearl: An English Poem of the Fourteenth Century, Edited with a Modern Rendering by Israel Gollancz (1891). It is Hunt's most ambitious work in the medium of silverpoint, a challenging technique dating from the 15th Century. This was suited to the early subject but may have been used because it could be photomechanically reproduced more clearly than graphite and less harshly than ink. The extensive use of white heightening adds depth of tone: Hunt must have known that the technique to be employed for the published illustration was collotype, which is ideally suited to conveying tonal variations.

The Pearl Maiden of the poem is a vision of a deceased child, usually interpreted as the narrator's daughter, in a gleaming white tunic embroidered with pearls, and breastplate of a 'spotless pearl' set there by Christ 'in token of peace'. The verse illustrated is from part V. This is the version by Gollancz:

BEDIGHT with pearls, that precious thing
came down the shore on that yonder bank;
from here to Greece was no gladder man
than I, when she stood at the water's edge.
She was nearer to me than aunt or niece,
and so much the more was my joy.
She proffered me speech, that creature rare,
bending low in womanly wise;
her crown of richest worth she doffed,
and hailed me with obeisance blithe
well was me that e'er I was born
to answer that sweet one, with pearls bedight.

At this point there is no city backdrop to the scene, but the narrator is later accorded a glimpse of the New or Heavenly Jerusalem, as beheld in Revelations by St John from Mount Zion. This gave Hunt the cue to incorporate in his drawing city walls reminiscent of the Old Jerusalem, with the mosque of the Dome of the Rock behind Pearl's outstretched arm.

Gollancz and Holman Hunt became close friends, and in his letter of 25 July 1893 to Blake Richmond, Hunt described the young academic as 'a dear fellow - and very much unlike the herd' (MS. RA Archives).

We are grateful to Dr Judith Bronkhurst for providing this catalogue entry.
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