Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)
Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)

Angels Entertaining the Holy Child

Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)
Angels Entertaining the Holy Child
signed 'Marianne Stokes' (lower right)
oil on canvas
56 ¾ x 68 ¾ in. (144.2 x 174.6 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 15 June 1982, lot 123.
Royal Academy Illustrated, 1893, no. 447.
Cornish Telegraph, 6 April 1893.
Athenaeum, 29 April 1893, p. 546.
Illustrated London News, 20 May 1893, p. 606.
'Royal Academy Pictures', supplement to The Magazine of Art, 1893, p. 295.
Pall Mall Pictures, 1893, p. 53.
R. Jope-Slade, “The Outsiders”, some eminent artists of the day not members of the Royal Academy, London, 1893, p. 46.
Times, 6 May 1893, p. 17.
Graphic, 6 January 1894, p. 17.
W. Fred, pseudonym for Alfred Wechsler, 'Marianne und Adrian Stokes: Eine Malerehe', Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, Munich, vol. IV, 1901, p. 206, as 'Schlummerlied'.
A. Meynell (Mrs Adrian Stokes), The Magazine of Art, March 1901, p. 243, illustrated p. 242.
J. Christian (ed.), The Last Romantics, London, 1989, p. 124, no. 125, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy, 1893, no. 447.
Liverpool, Autumn Exhibition, 1893, no. 1020.
Munich, Glaspalast, The Munchner Kunstlergenossenschaft (Munich Artists Association), no. 1020a, as ‘Schlummerlied’.
London, Pyms Gallery, Autumn Anthology, 1983, no. 7.
London, Barbican Art Gallery, The Last Romantics, 1989, no. 125, lent by Pyms Gallery.

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Bernice Owusu
Bernice Owusu

Lot Essay

A converted sail loft in St Ives provided the backdrop to a series of religious pictures that the Austrian-born painter Marianne Stokes completed during her residence in the town between 1887 and 1899. Her husband Adrian was a pivotal member of the early St Ives colony and first president of their Arts Club. 1893 marked an important year for him not only as a painter but as a curator too, and he was instrumental in choosing the paintings for a large exhibition as part of the huge and immensely popular Cornish Fisheries Exhibition in Truro. This painting was not included, possibly because it needed to be in London for the selection committee of the Royal Academy in time, but The Cornish Telegraph was able to review it before its journey on the train, thus: “The mother, fragile and worn, with more delicate beauty of feature than Mrs Stokes usually aims at, is seated, leaning back, quietly sleeping, on a grey rug against a pile of straw, the straw being painted with particular singularity of detail. In her lap lies the Holy Child, bound in swathing bands, and standing side by side are two twin child angels, whose robes of crimson hue suggest the Incarnation and the passion. Their forms and features are treated with a strange mingling of the real and ideal; they are those of earthly children, with expressions of wonder, devotion and gentle forebodings. In their hands are harps, with which they are soothing the infant Christ. The pose of the child angels is the same, the features the same, the expression the same; in fact one is almost a replica of the other. The picture is indeed striking, the painting wonderful in execution and in delicate feeling, and it will probably be one of the most noted of this year’s pictures”.

Once the painting reached London The Magazine of Art echoed this praise: ‘it has all the vigour characteristic of her, and is flavoured with an artistic touch well in harmony with the fancy of the conception and the primary treatment of colour and pose' while Robert Jope-Slade went further: ‘Mrs Stokes’ brace of scarlet-winged angelakins appearing to a Virgin in Royal blue is one of the quaintest and most attractive pictures in Piccadilly today and she does nothing that can be passed unnoticed.’

The painting’s composition was influenced by Light of Lights (private collection), a smaller painting. First seen on Show Day at St Ives in 1890, it received much admiration from many influential collectors including Sir Coutts Lindsay who selected it for the Grosvenor Gallery show. The deliberate, high–minded Catholicism of both pictures does not appear to have put off possibly more secular dealers and Walter Armstrong (1850-1918), later director of the National Gallery of Ireland, was amongst those who remarked on the artist's ability to capture the Madonna with reverence but without sentimentality. She had much practice and continued to paint religious pictures until the 1920’s interspersing them with her renowned portraits from travels throughout Eastern Europe and compositions inspired by the fables of the brothers Grimm.

Stokes’s place amongst important women artists is not simply confined to those who were followers of Pre-Raphaelitism; her study during five years of training of the Northern European Old Masters in Vienna and Munich was instrumental while she would have seen many works by the Nazarenes in Paris and beyond. Most members of the St Ives colony recorded the Cornish landscape relentlessly but it was almost irrelevant to her. Somehow though the authenticity of the place does underpin the universal appeal of this painting, and it transcends a pure Christmas card image, though of course has been used several times as such.

We are grateful to Magdalen Evans, Curator of Utmost Fidelity: The Painting Lives of Marianne and Adrian Stokes, for providing this catalogue entry.

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