Sunday, June 19, 2011

Frederic Lord Leighton - Head of a Girl in a White Dress

Price Realized £75,650

oil on canvas
15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm.)

The picture is generally dated to the 1890s, making it a late work, but hitherto it has not been identified with any particular item in the records. The most likely candidate seems to be the Head of a Girl in a White Dress that appeared in Leighton's studio sale at Christie's in July 1896; and the picture is catalogued here on the assumption that it is this work. However, the connection has not been fully established. The present canvas has virtually the same dimensions as the picture in the studio sale, and the model does indeed wear a white dress. But to put the matter beyond doubt it would be necessary to find an old reproduction of the picture sold in 1896.

At the studio sale the Head of a Girl in a White Dress was bought by Agnew's. The following year it was lent to Leighton's memorial exhibition at the Royal Academy, and a year later again it re-surfaced at Christie's in the posthumous sale of Joseph Ruston of Monk's Manor, Lincoln. Ruston had a major collection of both old and modern masters, the modern works including four more Leightons and important examples of Rossetti, Burne-Jones, G. F. Watts and others. The Head of a Girl was again bought by Agnew's, but it then disappeared. When the Ormonds' monograph appeared in 1975 it was 'untraced'.

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