Description: watercolour with bodycolour
Dimensions: 34 by 52 cm. ; 13 1/2 by 20 1/2 in.
Notes: Born in 1844 in Tottenham, Middlesex (other sources state that it was Hornsey), Marie was the youngest daughter of Michael Spartali, a wealthy and cosmopolitan merchant and later Greek consul general for London and his wife Euphrosyne. Marie and her sister Christine and brother Demetrius were raised in a large house in Clapham, which became the centre of the Greek community in the 1860s. The Anglo-Greek connoisseur Constantine Ionides who patronised Burne-Jones and Rossetti and whose collection is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, was a great friend of the Spartalis and it was probably this connection that led to Marie being 'discovered' by the Pre-Raphaelites. Marie was also a close friend of Maria Zambaco (née Cassavetti), Burne-Jones' mistress and model, and Aglaia Coronio, the confidante of both Rossetti and William Morris. The three women were known as the 'Three Graces' after their Greek heritage and striking beauty. Marie's fine looks attracted several artists who portrayed her, including the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Watts, Prinsep, Spencer Stanhope, Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Today she is well known for being an artist's model but equally as a painter in watercolours.
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Marie took lessons in drawing from Ford Madox Brown in his studio on Fitzroy Square and soon showed great promise as a painter. She possessed a warm and generous personality, great intelligence and much artistic talent. She was arguably the most talented of the female Pre-Raphaelite artists, painting over a hundred works in the 1870s and 1880s in a rich style derived from that of Rossetti and Madox Brown. The files at the Delaware Art Museum note that 'she was a very serious artist, working regularly every day in a very disciplined way until her death in 1927 at the age of eighty-three' (catalogue of the collection of the Delaware Art Museum 1974, pg. 172).