This afternoon at Sothebys
in London, a defining image of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement and one of the most internationally recognisable images of the nineteenth century, Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti sold for £3,274,500 ($5,274,892), establishing a new record for the artist at auction. Bidding for this prized work was intense, with five international bidders including Asia competing for it via the telephones, and two in the sale room, before it was won by a UK private collector on the telephone.
Proserpine occupies a seminal position in Rossettis oeuvre; the artist considered Proserpine the most beautiful of all his inventions and the various versions he produced are crucial to our understanding of his art. The work sold at Sothebys is a drawing in coloured chalks and todays auction marked its first appearance on the market in over forty years.
Depicting the Empress of the Underworld, Proserpine is also the picture in which Rossetti wove his most allegorical symbolism. The model for the work, Jane Morris wife of William Morris became his inspiration and muse.
Grant Ford, Head of Sothebys British & Irish Art Department, said: This is one of the most important Pre-Raphaelite pictures to be seen on the auction market in recent years, having only been in three collections since it was completed in 1880. There has been a resurgence of interest in Victorian art, not least in part due to the huge success of the Tates Pre-Raphaelites exhibition which opened last year and travelled to Washington and Moscow. Opportunities to buy the very best works by Rossetti seldom occur and Proserpine was hidden away in a private collection for over four decades. Todays record price demonstrates that collectors are hungry for pictures of this quality. We now look forward to selling in the next two weeks three of the most important Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite oil paintings that Sothebys has ever had the privilege to handle, from the Leverhulme Collection.
Sothebys auction of British & Irish Art brought a total of £7,178,250. The second highest price achieved was £962,500 for Sir William Orpens Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace.