Prosperine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the paintings in the Pre-Raphaelite era, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s, London on 19 November 2013. His glowing picture of Janey Morris, portrayed as Proserpine comes to the market for the first time in more than 40 years and is expected to fetch up to £1.8 million. This version of Proserpine from 1880 is one of five versions he produced, using Jane Morris, wife of his best friend – artist William Morris, as his model.
Sotheby’s curator, Simon Toll, praise the masterpiece painting “instantly recognizable” which “represents the artist at the zenith of his originality”.
“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.”
This drawing, in coloured chalks was first in the collection of William Graham, Rossetti’s most loyal and devoted patron, a Glasgow MP who eventually owned 37 Rossetti paintings. He bought it from the Stone Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, which became renowned for sticking with the Pre-Raphaelites no matter how far they fell out of fashion. The current owner remains anonymous.
In mythology Proserpina, goddess of Spring, is held by Pluto in the underworld. By letting her eat a pomegranate Pluto made sure that they could live only part of the year on earth: a clear reference to Rossetti’s secret love affair with Jane Morris. The portrait can be seen as an example of searching for pure beauty in the portrayal of women, sensual and melancholic.