Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece for sale

Proserpine, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1880) Jane Morris, wife of artist William, was the model for the goddess Proserpine

Related Stories

Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the defining images of the Pre-Raphaelite era, is to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in November.

The drawing, in coloured chalks, comes to the market for the first time in more than 40 years and is expected to fetch up to £1.8 million.

Sotheby's Simon Toll hailed Rossetti's "instantly recognisable" masterpiece.

"This is one of the most important British pictures to be seen on the auction market in many years," he said.

The drawing "represents the artist at the zenith of his originality", Toll continued.

"In many ways it stands apart from much of the art created by Rossetti's contemporaries as something new and otherworldly, that was unlike anything else that had been seen before it."

Proserpine was begun in 1878, and acquired by William Graham, the MP for Glasgow, in 1880.

Graham was Rossetti's chief patron, eventually owning 35 of the artist's works.

The chalk drawing is among five versions of the image in existence, including three in oil and a watercolour replica.

The picture was last seen on the art market in 1970 when it was sold by the Stone Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

No details are available regarding its current owner.

The painting centres on the myth of the goddess Proserpine, who was abducted by Pluto and trapped in the underworld after eating pomegranate seeds.

Each year she was temporarily released to return to her mother, Ceres. Her emergence from the underworld is said to symbolise the coming of spring.

Jane Morris, the Oxford-born wife of the artist William Morris and Rossetti's chief muse, was the model for Proserpine.

Biographers claim her own life bore similarities to that of the captive goddess, suggesting she was caught between a loveless marriage and her intimate relationship with Rossetti.

Auction record

The sale of Proserpine coincides with a major Pre-Raphaelite retrospective, first held at London's Tate Britain last year.

The exhibition opened at Washington DC's National Gallery of Art earlier this year and can currently be viewed at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.

Earlier this week, a painting by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones became the most expensive pre-Raphaelite painting ever sold at auction.

Love Among the Ruins sold for nearly £15m (£14,845,875) at the sale at Christie's London auction house on Thursday

The sale easily outstripped the top estimate price of £5m and set a new world record for a piece by the British artist at auction.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Entertainment & Arts stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

From BBC Culture

Programmes

  • A woman sits on a bed in a scene from Gustav Deutsch's latest film about Edward Hopper's paintingsTalking Movies Watch

    How film-maker Gustav Deutsch brought Edward Hopper’s paintings to life

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.