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Victorian Pictures

by Sotheby's

June 7, 1995

New York, NY, USA

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) Please Register/Login to access your Invaluable Alerts

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Description: oil on panel 30.5 by 22 cm.; 12 by 8 1/2 in. William Holman Hunt moved into 1 Tor Villa, Campden Hill, Kensington, in the summer of 1857, sharing the house with his youngest sister Emily (1836-1921), who was to become his pupil. The portrait drawing of her executed by Hunt in September 1857[1] was to be followed, in 1861, by this more ambitious bust-length portrait in oils, showing her in the role of chatelaine in her brother's house. On 6 June 1861 Hunt wrote to Miss Emily Tuckett (a pupil who in later years became his secretary) inviting her to come and watch him paint: "On Saturday I intend to do a rough portrait of my sister in oil... I shall begin about 10 and continue till 5 or so". The artist lent the portrait to Miss Tuckett to copy, informing her later that summer: "there is no reason that you should return the sketch of my sister before your departure from town - I shall not be likely to work on it again for two or three months"[2]. The title Honest Labour has a Comely Face, known only from the tablet on the frame, is based on a line from Act I of Thomas Dekker's play Patient Grissil - "Honest labour bears a lovely face". It was almost certainly chosen by Hunt, whose familiarity with the quotation is evident from his correspondence.[3] 1. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, reproduced in William Holman Hunt, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1969, pl.69. 2. MSS. Jeremy Maas collection: 5 June 1861, undated (before 8 September) 1861. On 8th September Hunt reported that the picture has "arrived in perfect safety at the end of last week." 3. Letters of 17 November 1898 to John T. Middlemore (MS. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) and of 2 June 1891 to F.W. Farrar (MS. Getty Archives) PROVENANCE Joseph Morby, 24 Cornhill; Purchased by the present owner's father-in-law c. 1930s. We are grateful to Dr Judith Bronkhurst for her kind assistance in cataloguing this painting.

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