Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Charles Edward Perugini - Kate

signed with monogram l.r.

oil on canvas
25 by 17 1/2 in

20,000—30,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 42,000 GBP

Perugini’s portrait of his wife Kate shows her wearing a sumptuous green dress over a white blouse, facing to the right. She stands in a richly decorated room, with a stone dado and panels of scagliola, with a relief sculpture on the left. The antiquarian style of dress adopted and the splendour of the setting suggest that Kate is here being shown in an historical or literary role. Among Perugini’s exhibited works are a number of female personifications or abstract figurative subjects under genre-type titles.

Katherine (usually called Kate) Elizabeth Macready Perugini (1839-1929) was the daughter of Charles Dickens and the widow of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Charles Allston Collins, who had died in 1873. Kate Perugini was herself a painter of genre and figure subjects, and one who enjoyed friendly relations with a number of fellow-artists and collectors. Kate was strikingly beautiful, with classical features and lustrous dark hair which she usually wore with a central parting and gathered at the back of her neck. John Everett Millais painted Kate on several occasions, notably as the model for the female figure in his painting The Black Brunswicker (National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside; Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight), in 1860, and later for a portrait that he exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881. Perugini himself seems to have taken pleasure in painting her, both in modern-life and historical guises. One of the most elaborate of these works – which combine accuracy of likeness with an historical flavour – is a painting entitled Doubt (Christie’s, London, 19 November 1965, lot 20) – in which Kate appears with her sister Mollie.

Carlo (later anglicised to Charles) Perugini was born in Naples in 1839. It is possible that he began his career as an artist's model, and it is likely to have been in this capacity that at the age of about fifteen he first encountered Frederic Leighton in Rome, at the time when Leighton was working on his early subjects Cimabue’s Madonna and The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets. In the later 1850s Perugini trained under Ary Scheffer, and may well have had further contact with Leighton at a time when they were both living in Paris. He seems to have settled in London in 1863, again perhaps on Leighton’s recommendation, and this was also the year when he commenced showing at the Royal Academy. A series of payments from Leighton for services as a studio assistant, or perhaps because Leighton provided Perugini with financial support at a time when the younger artist was struggling to sell works, are recorded over a period from 1870 to 1879.

Perugini’s style of painting, which is softly naturalistic and fluent, with a particular feeling for the textures of skin, cloth and marble, owes much to the example of Leighton. Like his mentor, Perugini succeeds in making his compositions harmonious and unified, and with a glowing quality of light.




  1. So lovely.

    Elegant without being disdainful.


  2. I agree, a fascinating woman. But can that neck be accurate ?

  3. Oh, no! I wish you hadn't said that. When I first looked, I was drawn to her face and the colour of her dress and took no notice of her neck. Now it's turned into a scary painting. She has turned into Miss Peacock in Cluedo. I'll have nightmares!


  4. It puzzles me. Either he can't draw or it was some ideal of Victorian beauty. I can't believe she really had a neck like a giraffe!

  5. Well, he can certainly paint. Look at the detail in the dress. It must have taken ages. Maybe she really did have a long neck. Do you have any more pictures of the same woman?


    Looks a little long but not exceptionally so.

  7. I've been internet looking but it seems he hardly painted anything but Kate in various guises so one can't tell if she really had a long neck or that was how he painted.

    In the portrait on the link you give, I'd say she does have an unusually tall neck and is concealing it by draping material round the lower part.

    Interesting that she was a daughter of Charles Dickens.

    What an extraordinary conversation!


  8. Best sort of conversations to have Lucy.

    The 'new' one seems to have gone. Pity.