Description: At Vespers signed and inscribed ''Vespers'/by F. Sandys/property of/E.M. Crosse Esq.re/St. Alban's' (on an old label on the reverse) oil on panel 24 x 19 7/8 in. (61 x 50.4 cm.) PROVENANCE W. H. Clabburn, and by descent to his daughter Louisa (one of the sitters) and her husband Edmund Meredith Crosse; by descent to their son, E. Mitchell Crosse. Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 27 November 1984, lot 28, when acquired by the present owner. . LITERATURE E. Wood, A Consideration of the Art of Frederick Sandys, Special Winter exhibition of The Artist, 1896, pp. 47-48. B. Elzea, Frederick Sandys, 1829-1904, A Catalogue Raisonn‚, 2001, no. 2.A.40, p. 167. EXHIBITION London, Grafton Galleries, Fair Children, 1895, no. 273. London, National Gallery of British Art, Millbank, Paintings and Drawings of the 1860 Period, 1923, no. 8. Victorian Childhood, 1986, cat. pl. 8. NOTES The sitters are the daughters of W.H. Clabburn, a wealthy textile manufacturer who was an important patron of Sandys in Norwich, prior to his move to London. On account of the children's age the painting can be dated to circa 1861-2. Mary Louisa (1850-1886), the elder daughter to the left, married Edmund Meredith Crosse (1846-1918), the son of Edmund Crosse who established the grocery provisions firm of Crosse and Blackwell in 1830, with Thomas Blackwell. The younger daughter, Lucy (1857-1914), did not marry. The identity of the sitters was lost when the picture was acquired in 1984. However, they can be identified from the uncut gallery proof of J.M. Gray's article for the Art Journal of 1884, preserved in the Castle Museum, Norwich, but sadly not published in full: 'The unfinished picture of the Misses Clabburn - two white clad girls, standing against a holly background, singing from a music book which they hold in their hands, recalls in the rounded beauty of the freshly coloured faces the charm of some of Mr Millais's earlier renderings of innocent English childhood'. Although there are touches of colour in the red and blue linings of the sleeves, and the orange held by the younger child, the picture is in fact incomplete, the white of their vestments being the prepared white ground of the canvas. This did not trouble either artist, patron or critic however, and the painting is a rare depiction of untrammelled innocence from an artist who more usually depicted raven haired temptresses (see the marginally later work, Love's Shadow, lot 91). There is historical precedent for the figures of the children, singing, or at prayer, in the fifteenth century Flemish altarpieces which Sandys was known to have admired. An example would be the well known Portinari altarpiece of Hugo van der Goes (1474-5), now in the Uffizi, Florence.
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