Lot 145: WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT, A.R.S.A., R.W.S., O.M. (1827-1910) MORNING PRAYER
June 7, 1995
New York, NY, USA
Description: signed with monogram and dated WHH/1866 l.l.; signed inscribed and dated Painted with Oil Copal 1865-6 W Holman Hunt, oil on panel 25.5 by 18.5 cm.; 10 by 7 in. On 9 December 1865 Holman Hunt's great friend Frederic George Stephens reported in his column in the Athenaeum that the artist had nearly completed Il dolce far niente (Forbes Magazine Collection, New York) and Morning Prayer, "a cabinet work", depicting "a girl of some seventeen years, standing, or half-kneeling, by the side of her bed, and in the act of prayer, before the day's duties begin. Morning sunlight, admirably rendered by the painter, fills the room with bright and glowing tints, and is enhanced by its peculiar, cool shadows. The accessories of this little jewel of Art are painted with remarkable delicacy and power. Nothing can be truer than its atmospheric effect, nothing sweeter than the action of the figure" (p.811). The two paintings deal with successive stages in the life of a nubile woman, but while the subject of Il dolce far niente muses on love, Morning Prayer shows a younger girl praying for deliverance from temptation. This is emphasised not only by the print on the wall above the bed illustrating the parable in St Matthew of the wise and foolish virgins (chapter 25, verses 1-13) and the 1863 chromotype after James Sant's Little Red Riding Hood in the top left-hand corner of the picture, but by the scent bottle on the chair in the foreground and the prominent handbag balancing on its back. The rumpled bed and indented pillow indicate that the girl has just got dressed, and, indeed, the painting was inspired by "A Morning Song" in Divine and Moral Songs for Children by Isaac Watts: I. My God, who makes the sun to know His proper hour to rise, And, to give light to all below, Doth send him round the skies. * * * * * III. So, like the sun, would I fulfil The business of the day; Begin my work betimes, and still March on my heavenly way. Hunt, in April 1865, had agreed to make a design to this poem for an illustrated edition of the book, and on 4 October wrote to Henry Fitzcook, who was supervising the publication, "I am working closely at the little picture of the girl praying and I hope to have it sufficiently finished to be able to do the drawing from it before the end of the week". In fact, the illustration and painting are far from being identical, although in both cases the setting is an attic room and each includes a birdcage - Hunt may have known that in Dutch seventeenth-century art the bird in the cage symbolises virginity. Diana Holman-Hunt identified the model for the painting as Hunt's first love, Annie Miller, but although the subject looks back to The Awakening Conscience, for which she definitely sat, her relationship with the artist had foundered acrimoniously some years before. Annie's refusal to tread the path of virtue may have been in Hunt's mind, but Morning Prayer was executed at the time of his betrothal and marriage to Fanny Waugh - indeed, on 10 December 1865, William Michael Rossetti wrote to Stephens: "Hunt's wedding postponed for some 3 weeks from now, as he must first finish a picture". Although the girl in the painting is much younger than Fanny, her sharp features are comparable, and one of the sketches on a sheet of studies of Hunt's fiancee (Figure i) may well be related to Morning Prayer. The compositional structure of the right-hand side of the painting may be loosely based on the Annunciation panel of the Three Kings Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden, which Hunt could have known through Strixner's engraving. Conscious or not, this - together with the sun-filled room - suggests that Morning Prayer was intended as a positive celebration of female chastity, executed at a period of Hunt's winning the love of a woman who "thought of taking her beautiful self unembraced to Heaven". However, despite the depth of his feelings for his wife, the honeymoon was cut to only a week, so that the artist, as he informed Stephens on 11 February 1866, could "dismiss my three pictures by a few days' application". Presumably one of the three can be identified as Morning Prayer, which - like the other Holman Hunt in the present sale (lot 144) - was handled by the London dealer Joseph Morby. The painting was subsequently owned by two eminent inventors. Sir John Fowler, Bt. (1817-1898), a civil engineer, was, in the 1860s, responsible for much of the construction of the Metropolitan Railway, the first part of London's underground system. He was painted by Millais in 1868, and his sale at Christie's in 1899 included the small version of The Order of Release (The Makins Collection), as well as works by Bonington, Constable, Landseer, John Philip, Turner and Wilkie. Sir Alfred Fernandez Yarrow, Bt. (1842-1932), founded the firm of shipbuilders which became one of the most famous in the world, supplying vessels to the French, Greek and Russian as well as British navies. In 1911 he lent Morning Prayer to the International Fine Arts Exhibition in Rome, and it has only recently re-emerged, having not been seen in public for over 80 years. PROVENANCE Joseph Morby, 24 Cornhill; bt. Agnew, 31 December 1866 (L350); bt. John Fowler, Esq., 14 May 1867 (L399); sold by the executors of Sir John Fowler, Bt., Christie's 6th May 1899, lot 57 bt. Hilditch (L220 10s); Alfred Fernandez Yarrow, Esq., Blackheath, by 1905; by descent to his wife Dame Eleanor Cecilia Yarrow 1932; her gift to Margaret..., 11 May 1945; private collection. EXHIBITED London, International Exhibition, 1871, no.443; London, Leicester Galleries, An Exhibition of the Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., 1906, no.17; London, Palace of Fine Arts, Franco-British Exhibition, 1908, British Section, no.376; Rome, International Fine Arts Exhibition. (Oil Paintings by Deceased Masters, British Section), 1911, no.37. LITERATURE [F.G. Stephens], "Fine Art Gossip", Athenaeum, 9 December 1865, no.1989, p.811; [F.G. Stephens], "Art Notes" Reader, VI, no.155, 16 December 1865, p.692 (edited version of the above); W. Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Macmillan & Co., London 1905, I, illus. facing p.60; Otto von Schleinitz, William Holman Hunt (Kunstler-Monographien LXXXVIII), Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld & Leipzig, 1907, p.60, illus.pl.57 p.58; Sir Isidore Spielmann, Souvenir of the Fine Art Section Franco-British Exhibition 1908, London , illus. between pp.162-3; Sir Isidore Spielmann, International Fine Arts Exhibition, Rome 1911 - Souvenir of the British Section, London, 1911, illus.pl.37 p.122; W. Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2nd ed., Chapman and Hall Ltd., London, 1913, II, p.xi, illus.p.68; Diana Holman-Hunt, My Grandmothers and I. Hamish Hamilton, London 1960, p.94; Diana Holman-Hunt. My Grandfathers, His Wives and Loves, Hamish Hamilton, London 1969, p.205: Mary Bennett, "Footnotes to the Holman Hunt Exhibition", Liverpool Bulletin, XIII, 1970, 1970, p.35; Anne Clark Amor, William Holman Hunt - The True Pre-Raphaelite, Constable, London 1989, illus. between pp.64-5; Elaine Shefer, Birds, Cages and Women in Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite Art, Peter Lang, New York, Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Paris 1989, p.184 and no.55, p.204. Judith Bronkhurst 1. Illustrated in Great Victorian Pictures: their paths to fame, Arts Council Exhibition catalogue 1978, no.50, p.73. 2. Hunt to Henry Fitzcook, 25 April 1865, published in Bennett, op.cit., p.34. Hunt's graphotype, which was published in 1867, is illus. Fig 10. 3. MS. offered Sotheby's Billingshurst, 10 March 1991, part lot 1441. 4. Shefer, op.cit., p.55. A birdcage also features in the top right-hand corner of Millais Waking (Perth, City Art Gallery), begun in July 1865. Like Hunt's painting this includes a textured bedspread. 5. Diana Holman-Hunt 1969, op.cit., p.205. 6. MS. with Ian Hodgkins & Co. Ltd. 1995, published in his Catalogue of Books, Prints & Autograph Letters by and about The Pre-Raphaelites & their Circle, Catalogue 79, Winter/Spring 1995, item 314. 7. Pen and Indian ink, 18 by 11 cm.; 7 by 4 in., with Julian Hartnoll 1995. Formerly in the collection of Mrs Elisabeth Burt, sold Sotheby's 10 October 1985, part lot 49. 8. The Strixner engraving is illustrated in Susan Lambert, The Image Multiplied: Five centuries of printed reproductions of paintings and drawings, Trefoil Publications, London, 1987, no.86, p.103. 9. Diana Holman-Hunt 1969, op.cit., p.238. 10. MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS.don.e.66 fol.136.