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Marie Spartali Stillman | Pre-Raphaelite painter

From Christie's:

Marie Spartali Stillman was both a gifted artist and a major Pre-Raphaelite muse, who features as a model in many of the movement's most memorable works.
Stillman was the youngest daughter of wealthy Greek parents.
Her father, Michael Spartali, had made his money as a cotton merchant and served as Greek consul-general in London between 1866-1882.
The Spartali family were prominent members of the cultured and affluent Anglo-Greek community that came to have an enduring impact on the history of Victorian art; they included Burne-Jones' and Rossetti’s great patron Constantine Ionides and his family, as well as Maria Zambaco, Burne-Jones' model and mistress, and Aglaia Coronio, who sat for Rossetti.

Devoted to drawing from an early age, Stillman became a pupil of Ford Madox Brown in 1865, and for the next few years had regular lessons in his studio, working alongside his own three children, Lucy, Catherine and Oliver.
Stillman first exhibited her work at the Dudley Gallery, Piccadilly, in 1867, where she presented three watercolours of female figures.
Over her long career, she painted over a hundred and fifty works, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery, and in Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester. | © Christie's

Marie Stillman (née Spartali) - Greek: Μαρία Σπαρτάλη - (10 March 1844 - 6 March 1927) was a British member of the second generation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Of the Pre-Raphaelites, she had one of the longest-running careers, spanning sixty years and producing over one hundred and fifty works.
Though her work with the Brotherhood began as a favorite model, she soon trained and became a respected painter, earning praise from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others.

Family history

Marie Spartali was the eldest child of Michael Spartali, a wealthy merchant, principal of the firm Spartali and Co and Greek consul-general based in London from 1866 to 1879. He had moved to London around 1828, where he married Euphrosyne Varsini, the daughter of a Greek merchant from Genoa.
The family split time between their home in Clapham Common (London) and their country home on the Isle of Wight.
In the city, Spartali’s father was fond of lavish garden parties where he invited up and coming writers and artists. It was at one such event where Marie would first be introduced to the art world.

Marriage and death

In 1870, Spartali met American journalist and painter William J. Stillman. The couple had previously posed for Rossetti in his famous Dante pictures, though it is not certain if that is how they first met.
Interestingly, although her husband was an artist himself, Marie never sat for him as a model. The pair married in 1871 against her father's wishes, causing a rift that would never fully heal.
As her husband was a foreign correspondent for The Times, the couple divided their time between London and Florence (1878-1883), and later Rome (1889-1896).
The couple had three children of their own who were raised alongside William’s other three children from a previous marriage. Marie Stillman died in March 1927 in Ashburn Place in South Kensington, four days shy of her 83rd birthday, and was cremated at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, Surrey. She is interred there with her husband.

Art and career

Introduction to the Art World.

Known for their Greek heritage and beauty, Spartali along with her cousins, Maria Zambaco and Aglaia Coronio, were known collectively among friends as "the Three Graces", after the Charites of Greek mythology (Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia).
Beauty aside, Marie was very tall, and cut an imposing figure - in her later years dressing entirely in black - and purposefully attracting much attention throughout her life.
In the house of the Greek businessman A.C. Ionides at Tulse Hill, in south London, Marie first met artist James Abbot McNeil Whistler and playwright Algernon Charles Swinburne.
The meeting made quite the impression, for Swinburne was reported to have said that "She is so beautiful that I want to sit down and cry".

The Pre-Raphaelites

In 1864, Whistler introduced Spartali to the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
She began sitting for him and when Spartali expressed interest in learning to paint he referred her to Ford Madox Brown.
Over the next five years the pair developed a close, almost familial, relationship.
Of his models, Brown said that Spartali was “the most intellectual”, and maintained a deep respect for her work, chronicled in their correspondence..
By 1870, Spartali had decided to pursue art professionally and with the help of her mentor made her first sale for 40 guineas.
Example of modeling works: Brown; Burne-Jones (The Mill); Julia Margaret Cameron; Rossetti (A Vision of Fiammetta, Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice, The Bower Meadow); and Spencer Stanhope.


Because of her close links to the Brotherhood Marie Stillman is often identified as part of the second generation of the movement..
According to Henry James, “She inherited the traditions and the temper of the original PRs...but she has come into her heritage by virtue or natural relationship. She is a spontaneous, sincere, naive Pre-Raphaelite”.
There is, however, some academic debate as to whether this is entirely accurate.
For example, Robert de la Sizeranne of Le Correspondant noted that this new generation of Pre-Raphaelites, Marie Stillman among them, had enough in common with the Symbolists to be considered one.
Marie Spartali Stillman, could be considered a candidate for Symbolism because her figures "... have an immobility, a silence, a pose almost suspended, a slow hesitation in their rare movements, which make them resemble something like sleepwalkers”.
Rossetti himself credited Spartali for her ability to infuse her figures with emotion, thereby elevating them to something more than mere images..

Other influences and career impacts

In 1873 both her young daughter, Euphrosyne, and her sister Christina fell ill. Stillman wrote to Ford Madox Brown that she was preoccupied with their health and felt "too weak to paint." She later clarified that whenever she did work she found herself depicting her sister in a grim state. Because of this, she took some time off painting, however Madox-Brown always speculated that she stopped because of her husband's jealousy over her successful career and continued relationship with himself.
Alongside her husband, Stillman lived in Florence, Italy for a number of years. She took great inspiration from the city around her which can be seen most prominently in her subject matter. Being in the city of Dante Alighieri, she depicted numerous scenes from the Divine Comedy, focusing in particular on the romance between Dante and Beatrice.
Though separated from her peers, Stillman maintained her correspondence with the PRB and Rossetti in particular who shared her love of Dante.


The subjects of her paintings were typical of the Pre-Raphaelites: female figures; scenes from Shakespeare, Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio; also Italian landscapes.
She exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1875, then at the Grosvenor Gallery and its successor, the New Gallery; at the Royal Academy; and at various galleries in the eastern USA, including the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.
Stillman exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
A retrospective show of her work took place in the United States in 1982, and another one at the Delaware Art Museum in 2015.
The latter show transferred to the UK, opening at the Watts Gallery at Compton, Surrey from March until 5 June 2016. | © Wikipedia

Marie Spartali Stillman fu sia un'artista di talento che una delle principali muse Preraffaellite, che compare come modello in molte delle opere più memorabili del movimento. Stillman era la figlia più giovane di ricchi genitori greci.
Suo padre, Michael Spartali, aveva fatto i suoi soldi come commerciante di cotone e aveva servito come console generale greco a Londra tra il 1866-1882.
La famiglia Spartali erano membri di spicco della colta e ricca comunità anglo-greca che ebbe un impatto duraturo sulla storia dell'arte Vittoriana; includevano il grande mecenate di Burne-Jones e Rossetti, Constantine Ionides e la sua famiglia, così come Maria Zambaco, modella ed amante di Burne-Jones, ed Aglaia Coronio, che posava per Rossetti.
Dedita al disegno fin dalla tenera età, Stillman divenne allieva di Ford Madox Brown nel 1865 e per gli anni successivi prese lezioni regolari nel suo studio, lavorando insieme ai suoi tre figli, Lucy, Catherine ed Oliver.

Stillman espose per la prima volta il suo lavoro alla Dudley Gallery, Piccadilly, nel 1867, dove presentò tre acquerelli di figure femminili.
Nel corso della sua lunga carriera, ha dipinto oltre centocinquanta opere, esponendo alla Royal Academy, alla Grosvenor Gallery ed a Liverpool, Birmingham e Manchester. | © Christie's

Marie Euphrosyne Spartali (10 marzo 1844 - 6 marzo 1927) e poi Maria Euphrosyne Startman - è stata una pittrice Preraffaellita Britannica di origine greca e la più importante rappresentante femminile di questo movimento artistico.
La sua carriera è durata 60 anni, ha prodotto oltre 100 opere e ha partecipato regolarmente a mostre di pittura nel Regno Unito e negli Stati Uniti d'America.

Maria Spartali fu la figlia più piccola di Michael Spartali (1818–1914), un ricco mercante e Console generale greco che viveva a Londra insieme a sua moglie Eufrosyne Varsami (1825–1913), di origine genovese.
Lei e le sue cugine Maria Zambaco e Aglaia Coronio furono chiamate tra i loro amici le tre grazie, riprendendo quelle della mitologia greca: Aglaia, Eufrosine e Talia poiché erano tutte e tre molto belle e di discendenza greca. Algernon Swinburne disse di Spartali: "Lei è così bella che voglio sedermi e piangere".
Spartali studiò presso Ford Madox Brown dal 1864 per alcuni anni, assieme ai suoi bambini Lucy, Catherine e Oliver.

Posò come modella per Brown stesso e anche per Edward Burne-Jones in The Mill (il mulino), per Julia Margaret Cameron, per Dante Gabriel Rossetti in A Vision of Fiammetta (Visione di Fiammetta), Dante's Dream (il sogno di Dante) ed in The Bower Meadow (il prato sul pergolato), per John Roddam Spencer Stanhope e per James Abbott McNeill Whistler in La Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine (la principessa del paese della porcellana).

Nel 1871 contro il volere dei suoi genitori sposò il giornalista e pittore statunitense William James Stillman divenendo sua seconda moglie, la prima si era suicidata due anni prima. Il lavoro di lui come corrispondente estero portò alla divisione del tempo della coppia tra Londra e Firenze tra il 1878-1883 e poi Roma dal 1889-1896.

Lei viaggiò anche verso l'America e fu la sola Preraffaellita di origine britannica a lavorare negli Stati Uniti.
La figlia di Spartali Euphrosyne "Effie" e la sua figliastra Lisa divennero entrambe delle artiste. Suo figlio Michael divenne architetto.
Marie Spartali morì a Londra nel 1927, fu cremata al cimitero di Brookwood vicino a Woking e sepolta presso la tomba di suo padre nel cimitero di West Norwood.

Le opere

I soggetti delle sue opere sono quelli tipici dei Preraffaelliti: figure femminili, paesaggi italiani, scene di Shakespeare, Petrarca, Boccaccio e soprattutto Dante.
Tra le sue opere dantesche vi sono: The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice on All Saints' Day (1881), Dante and Beatrice, Scene from the Vita Nuova (1891), Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni (1884), A May Feast at the House of Folco Portinari, 1274 (1887), Dante at Verona (1888), A Florentine Wedding Feast (1890), Upon a Day Came Sorrow unto Me (1887), A Pilgrim's Folk (1914).
Espose alla Dudley Gallery, alla Grosvenor Gallery ed a quella che gli succedette, la New Gallery, alla Royal Academy, ed in varie gallerie degli Stati Uniti dell'est. Partecipò alla mostra del centenario a Filadelfia nel 1876. Una sua retrospettiva venne fatta negli Stati Uniti nel 1982. | © Wikipedia