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Post Lot Text
STUDY FOR JOLI COEUR, SIGNED WITH MONOGRAM AND DATED BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
PENCIL ON PAPER
Executed in 1866
The drawing is a study for Rossetti's painting Joli Coeur in the Manchester City Art Gallery (fig. 1), the drawing being dated 1866 and the painting a year later. As Virginia Surtees observes in her catalogue raisonné, the figure seems to be dependent on that of the bridesmaid on the far left in The Beloved (1865-1866; Tate Britain, London), a painting inspired by the Song of Solomon that is among the most important works of the artist's middle period. The pose is very similar, and the model for both figures was Ellen Smith.
A laundry girl by profession, Ellen Smith was one of several young women of good looks and easy virtue who modelled for Rossetti in the mid-1860s. She was also employed by other artists in his circle, including Edward Burne-Jones, J. R. Stanhope, Simeon Solomon and the watercolourist G. P. Boyce, who occupied Rossetti's former apartment at Blackfriars from 1862 and became his neighbour in Chelsea nine years later. Smith's modelling career seems to have ended when she married in 1873. Boyce, who often mentions her in his published diary, recorded that on 17 February that year, now under the name of Mrs Elson, she 'called on me to tell me she had been married about three weeks ago to an old acquaintance and suitor, a cabman. She wishes to do some laundry work on her own account, as her husband's earnings are small'.
Smith was also the model for the present study, on which the painting is closely based. The main differences are the angle of her head and the absence in the drawing of the spiral-shaped pearl brooch that she wears in her hair in the painting. This piece of jewellery was frequently used by Rossetti to adorn his models (Marillier describes is as 'so common that it almost amounts to a signature'), and had probably been found in one of the bric-à-brac shops he haunted. Another favourite piece was the heart-shaped crystal pendant that hangs from the girl's necklace in both painting and drawing and which alludes to the picture's title.
The drawing's first owner was Fanny Cornforth (1835-c.1906), who had been Rossetti's chief model and muse a few years earlier, as well as his housekeeper and mistress. It was one of many works that he gave her by way of providing her with an unofficial income. After his death in 1882 it appeared at the short-lived Rossetti Gallery which she and her husband, John Bernard Schott, opened at 1a Old Bond Street, all the exhibits coming from her collection and being for sale.
It was probably then that the drawing was acquired by Constantine Alexander Ionides (1833-1900), the autocratic head of the Anglo-Greek family that plays such a prominent role in the annals of Victorian art (see also lot 90). Ionides was a great admirer of Rossetti's work, and had commissioned the artist's last important painting, The Day Dream, completed in 1880. However, the drawing was not among the 1,156 paintings, drawings and prints, including masterpieces by Delacroix, Millet and Degas, as well as G. F. Watts, Burne-Jones and Rossetti himself, that he bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Remaining in his family, it descended to his daughter, Mrs Zoë Manuel, who still owned it when Virginia Surtees published her catalogue in 1971.