Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Lady Lilith (detail),” 1867, watercolor heightened with bodycolor and gum Arabic, 20 1/2 x 17 inches

Sotheby’s London will soon be offering up the only version of one of the most iconic works by Pre-Raphaelite master Dante Gabriel Rossetti remaining in private hands. Discover here which painting it is and when the hammer will drop.

The vibrant “Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was, for the artist, a celebration of his first mistress, Fanny Cornforth, and has been called a “hymn” to her glorious corn-gold hair. On July 13, for the first time in nearly three decades, the painting will head to auction, via Sotheby’s London. A highlight of the Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist sale, the painting was executed during the artist’s most innovative period in the 1860s. In fact, it was during this time that Rossetti helped establish the cult of Pre-Raphaelite beauty, making the painting enormously significant.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Lady Lilith,” 1867, watercolor heightened with bodycolor and gum Arabic, 20 1/2 x 17 inches

Two other versions of “Lady Lilith” were produced by Rossetti in the same decade and now hang in museums in the United States. The picture here has remained in a private collection. Simon Toll, Sotheby’s Victorian art specialist, says, “Rossetti’s work is a great passion of mine, and I have been lucky enough to bring to auction several important examples by him in recent years, breaking the world record for a watercolor, a drawing, and an oil painting. ‘Lady Lilith’ has always been one of my favorites, but I had never seen this particular picture ‘in the flesh.’ It was a moment of genuine excitement when I first saw it being unwrapped from the packing case in which it had been sent from Japan, its home for the last 30 years. Not only is the work in wonderful condition, it’s also in Rossetti’s original frame and with the artist’s hand-written poem attached to the backing-board. To find a picture in such an untouched condition is exceptionally rare.”

Auction estimates are around $500,000 to $700,000.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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