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Joanna Boyce Auction Price Results
Estimate: $90,000 - $120,000
Description: Alice Gray oil on canvas 12 x 8 in. (30.5 x 20.3 cm.) PROVENANCE Bought from the artist by Joanna Boyce, 23 February 1858, for 60 gns. By descent to Mrs Arthur Street, who still had it in 1923. LITERATURE M.H. Spielmann, Millais and his Works, Edinburgh and London, 1898, p. 169, no. 50. J.G. Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, London, 1899, vol. 2, p. 469. M. Bennett, 'A Check List of Pre-Raphaelite Pictures exhibited at Liverpool 1846-67, and some of their Northern Collectors', Burlington Magazine, vol. cv, no. 728, November 1963, p. 492. EXHIBITION Possibly Liverpool, Liverpool Academy, 1858, no. 600, as 'Portrait of a Young Lady'. London, Royal Academy, Works by the late Sir John Everett Millais, Bart, Winter 1898, no. 31, as 'Head of a Girl' (lent by H.T. Wells, widower of Joanna Boyce). London, South London Art Gallery, 1898, no. 63. Whitechapel, Whitechapel Art Gallery, British Art of Fifty Years Ago, 1905, no. 408. Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery, Works of Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelites, 1911, no. 238. London, Tate Gallery, Paintings and Drawings of 1860 Period, 1923, no. 88 (lent by Mrs Street). NOTES This important rediscovery is a likeness of Millais' sister-in-law Alice Gray and a pair to a similar study of her sister Sophie which, by curious coincidence, has also recently resurfaced. The two girls were the considerably younger sisters of Millais' wife Effie, who had formerly been married to John Ruskin; she had married Millais on 3 July 1855 after her previous marriage had been annulled amid much scandalous rumour. Sophie and Alice were both favorite models of Millais' in the late 1850s. Most notably they appear, their heads in similar poses to those adopted for the studies, in his masterpiece Autumn Leaves (Fig.1), which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856, the year before the studies were painted. Sophie stands in the centre of the composition, dropping leaves into a basket which is held by Alice. According to Effie Millais' account of the painting of Autumn Leaves, all the girls who sat for the picture (and there were two besides the Gray sisters) were under the age of thirteen at the time. The picture was painted at Annat Lodge, Perthshire, which Millais and his wife had taken to be near her family home, Bowerswell, and to escape from London until the gossip surrounding their marriage had subsided. The study of Alice Gray was bought in 1858 by Joanna Boyce, the sister of the landscape painter George Price Boyce; she had recently married another painter, Henry Tanworth Wells, and she herself was a talented if short lived artist. Boyce acquired the companion study of Sophie Gray at the same time, brother and sister paying 60 guineas each for their purchases. Boyce was a passionate collector, buying both modern works, many of them by his Pre-Raphaelite friends, and Old Master paintings. After his death in 1897, his collection took three days to disperse at Christie's. The two studies of the Gray sisters were typical acquisitions for Boyce, who was particularly attracted to pictures of half-length female figures. He acquired many other examples by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and both he and Joanna produced some themselves. He clearly equated these comtemporary works with Venetian sixteenth-century pictures of this type, some of which he also owned. Indeed, his most important Rossetti half-length, the Bocca Baciata of 1859 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), was actually described by Rossetti as having 'a rather Venetian aspect', and the same might have been said of at least one of Boyce's Burne-Joneses, a watercolour of 1861 entitled Viridis of Milan . Boyce's fondness for pictures in this idiom, whether authentic Venetian works or their modern equivalents by his artist friends, had a distinct bearing on the emergence of a 'Venetian' style among the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates in the late 1850s; and this phenomenon in turn, with its emphasis on decorative qualities at the expense of narrative, was an important dimension to the Aestheticism which reached its full develpoment in the 1860s. The argument comes full circle when we remember that Autumn Leaves, to which the studies of Alice and Sophie Gray are so closely related, is itself a work of crucial significance in the context of Aestheticism, having been conceived, according to Effie Millais, as 'a picture full of beauty without subject' Boyce seems to have been keen to send both studies to the Royal Academy of 1858, but Millais felt that they were too slight without the backing of a more substantial picture, which was not ready in time. The result was that he was not represented at the RA in 1858, although one of the studies seems to have been shown at the Liverpool Academy that year. Both pictures were certainly in the Millais memorial exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1898, as well as in a show at Whitechapel in 1905. The head of Alice descended to Joanna Boyce's daughter, Mrs Arthur Street, while that of Sophie appeared at G.P. Boyce's sale in 1897 and was bought in by his daughter Mrs Ernest Charrington, later Mrs Wilfrid Hadley. The cousins each lent them to an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1923, which was the last occasion on which either picture was recorded. We are grateful to Dr Malcolm Warner for his help in preparing this entry. As he points out, the two studies have been confused in the catalogues of the exhibitions in which they appeared between 1898 and 1923, but we trust that the details given here are correct.View additional info
Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000
Description: signed and dated l.l.: Joanna M. Wells / 57 - 61 oil on canvasView additional info