Sir William Blake Richmond, R.A. (1842-1921)
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Sir William Blake Richmond, R.A. (1842-1921)

Head study for 'The Song of Miriam'

Sir William Blake Richmond, R.A. (1842-1921)
Head study for 'The Song of Miriam'
dated 'Feby 1880' (lower right)
pencil and black chalk on pale blue paper
8 ¾ x 6 in. (22.2 x 15.2 cm.)
Sir John Everett Millais.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 5 November 1993, lot 113.
with Agnew's, London, where purchased by the present owners.
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Lot Essay

This drawing is a study for the head of one of the central dancers for Blake Richmond's celebrated The Song of Miriam (exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, 1880, no. 136, see lot 11, fig. 1). The painting was commissioned by William Gilstrap and the subject is taken from the Book of Exodus, where Miriam, the sister of Moses, gives thanks for the Israelites safe deliverance from Pharaoh's army. The influence of Leighton, who the younger artist had long admired, is evident, and the painting received widespread critical acclaim despite its being unfinished. Henry Blackburn in Grosvenor Notes described the picture as 'perhaps the most elaborate and scholarly work of the painter'.

Blake Richmond was the eighth child of the portraitist George Richmond, R.A. (1809-1896) (see lots 34 and 35), and followed his father's profession, establishing himself as a portraitist of note. His portrait of the The Sisters, depicting Alice (Lewis Carroll's's muse for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Lorina and Edith Liddell is generally regarded as his early masterpiece. He was knighted in 1897 for his design and execution of the mosaics in the apse of St Paul's Cathedral, 1895-1910.

For another study for The Song of Miriam, see lot 11.

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