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Lot 69: Henry Wallis, R.W.S. (1830-1916)
THE FORBES COLLECTION OF VICTORIAN PICTURES AND WORKS OF ART
February 19, 2003
London, United Kingdom
Description: Timon and Flavius signed with initials 'H.W.' (lower right) oil on panel 23 7/8 x 19 3/8 in. (60.6 x 49.2 cm.) PROVENANCE The publishers of the Art Journal, 1876. with Julian Hartnoll, London, 1971, from whom purchased by Joe Setton, on behalf of The Pre-Raphaelite Trust. Anon. sale; Parke Bernet, New York, 11 February 1981. Anon. sale; Christie's South Kensington, 20 March 1984, lot 78, as Alms for the Poor, when acquired by the present owner. ENGRAVED By C. Cousen for the Art Journal, 1876. LITERATURE Art Journal, 1876, pp. 172-3, illus. EXHIBITION The Pre-Raphaelites and their Times, 1985, no. 19. NOTES This picture illustrates Shakespeare's Timon of Athens (Act IV, Scene 3) and was painted about 1878, when it was engraved for the Art Journal. It therefore dates from many years after Wallis had painted such Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces as The Death of Chatterton (1855-6; Tate Gallery) and The Stonebreaker (1857-8; Birmingham), and shows him reverting to a more conventional style. However, his choice of theme looks back to his Pre-Raphaelite origins. The Pre-Raphaelites had often mined Shakespeare in their search for meaningful subjects, and were invariably attracted, as Wallis is here, to ones rich in moral significance. Timon, Lord of Athens, was profligate of his bounty, giving lavishly to all, even flatterers and sycophants, despite the protestations of his steward, Flavius. The time came when his wealth was at an end, and he turned confidently to his friends for help; but he soon found that those who had courted him when he had riches to bestow shunned him in adversity. Bitterly disillusioned, he took to the woods, abjuring the cursed city and declaring himself a hater of mankind. There he was sought out by the faithful Flavius, who begged to be allowed to serve him and offered him money from his hard-earned savings, as seen in the picture. Timon at first took this for a bribe, but he was at last convinced of the steward's fidelity and admitted that the world contained at least one honest man. Nonetheless the human form and voice of his servant filled him with disgust, and Flavius was forced to depart.