On Thursday, 13th July, in Sothebys
London sale of Victorian and Edwardian Art, a newly discovered drawing by John William Waterhouse (1849‐1917) will spearhead the selection of works on paper. Unrecorded in the literature on the artist, the charcoal study of Flora comes to the market following the recent Waterhouse retrospective at the Royal Academy in London and in the Netherlands and Canada. Floras mythology appears to have obsessed Waterhouse. There are several paintings by the artist that depict her specifically, such as Flora and the Zephyrs and Boreas, and this beautiful drawing relates to the central figure in Flora and the Zephyrs. Few drawings of this quality by the artist survive and, although ostensibly depicting a nymph of Roman mythology, it captures the real and tangible beauty of the young girl who posed for it. Energetic, confident and expressive, Flora reveals Waterhouses remarkable technical skill and prowess as a draughtsman. It is estimated at £70,000‐100,000.
The immediate connotation of Flora, established over many centuries, is the connection between women, flowers, the fertility of nature and the pagan idea of rebirth. Here, Flora is shown holding her hair as it is lifted by the winds gentle gusts, as personified by Zephyr. Zephyr first fell in love with the nymph as she gathered flowers, and he flew down with his winged companions to carry her away with a girdle made of white roses. Waterhouse imparts his subject with an erotic charge, in keeping with the powerful sexual element that gives his most successful works their compelling attraction.
In the same sale, a rediscovered painting by William Frederick Yeames (1835‐1918) has not been seen or recorded since it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871. Dr Harvey and the Children of Charles I, estimated at £80,000‐120,000, showcases an incident during the English Civil War, a popular period for Victorian artists to mine for their subjects (illustrated left). It depicts King Charles Is young sons accompanied by their tutor, Dr Harvey, looking on the Battle of Edgehill (the first pitched battle of the Civil War, fought in southern Warwickshire on Sunday, 23rd October, 1642). Yeames treats the subject with humour as he contrasts the alert concentration of the children with the oblivious calm of their guardian, who remains engrossed in his book. Yeames became famous for his Royal Academy exhibit of 1878 And When did you Last your Father?, one of the most beloved paintings of the Victorian era.