Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, A.R.A. (1829-1904)
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Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, A.R.A. (1829-1904)

Proud Maisie

Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, A.R.A. (1829-1904)
Proud Maisie
pencil and coloured chalk on paper
15 ¾ x 10 ¼ in. (40 x 26 cm.)
A Norfolk Family; Philips, London, 15 April 1985, lot 158.
with Peter Nahum, London, where purchased by the present owners.
B. Elzea, Frederick Sandys: A Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, 2001, pp. 195-6, no. 2.A.116, illustrated.
London, Peter Nahum, Second Exhibition, Master Drawings of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 1985, no. 6.
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Lot Essay

Proud Maisie was one of Sandys most popular subjects and one to which he returned on several occasions. The present drawing was probably executed not long after Sandys first exhibited the subject at the Royal Academy in 1868. Both William Michael Rossetti and A.C. Swinburne praised the exhibited work in a review of the exhibition, published jointly in pamphlet form. Swinburne, one of Sandys' most ardent admirers, was particularly enthusiastic. It was, he wrote, one of the artist's 'most solid and splendid designs; a woman of rich, ripe, angry beauty, she draws one warm long lock of curling hair through her full and moulded lips, biting it with bared bright teeth, which add something of a tiger's charm to the sleepy and couching [sic] passion of her fair face'. Sandys drawing is a tour de force charged with sexual tension and raw emotion.

The model for Proud Maisie was Mary Emma Jones, an actress who took the stage name of 'Miss Clive'. She had first sat to Sandys in 1862, and by 1867 they had established a long-term common law relationship and produced the first of ten surviving children. From then on she was his principal muse, inspiring countless works which celebrate her distinctive profile and luxuriant tresses. Elzea, (op.cit., p. 16) calls Proud Maisie 'a kind of apotheosis of Mary Emma and her spectacular hair'. The title by which the composition became known was taken from 'The Pride of Youth', a poem by Sir Walter Scott in The Heart of Midlothian:

"PROUD Maisie is in the wood,
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush
Singing so rarely.

‘Tell me, thou bonny bird,
When shall I marry me?’
—‘When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.’

‘Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?’
—‘The gray-headed sexton
That delves the grave duly.

‘The glowworm o’er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
Welcome, proud lady.’"

Two versions of the composition are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and there are also versions in the National Gallery of Canada and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

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