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Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti sells for £3,274,500 at Sotheby's: Record for the artist at auction
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine, 120 by 56cm., 47 by 22in. Estimate: £1,200,000 — 1,800,000. Sold for £3,274,500 ($5,274,892). Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- This afternoon at Sotheby’s 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 Rossetti’s 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 Sotheby’s is a drawing in coloured chalks and today’s 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 Sotheby’s 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 Tate’s 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. Today’s 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 Sotheby’s has ever had the privilege to handle, from the Leverhulme Collection.”

Sotheby’s auction of British & Irish Art brought a total of £7,178,250. The second highest price achieved was £962,500 for Sir William Orpen’s Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace.

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