In 1876, The Galaxy Magazine drew its readers’ attention to a new trend overtaking the streets of the English capital:
We have now in London pre-Raphaelite painters, pre-Raphaelite poets, pre-Raphaelite novelists, pre-Raphaelite young ladies, pre-Raphaelite hair, eyes, complexion, dress, decorations, window curtains, chairs, tables, knives forks and coal-scuttles. We have pre-Raphaelite anatomy, we have pre-Raphaelite music…
Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of Liberty & Co. on Regent Street, was memorialised as ‘The Man Who Killed the Best Parlour’ by introducing a whole new aesthetic to his aspirational middle-class customer. Liberty was inspired by London’s Pre-Raphaelite artists, who were not only his customers, but also part of his brand identity. Tapping into the market that Morris & Co had created, he offered unique luxury goods in an age of mass-production. Eclecticism became the watchword for drawing room decoration as the middle classes tried to outdo each other is displaying their newly-acquired ‘artistic’ taste.
When I went to see Maria Rossetti’s grave in Brompton Cemetery, I was pleasantly surprised to come across the grave of Frederick Richard Leyland, one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's best-known patrons.
A Liverpool ship-owner and canny businessman, Leyland represented a new breed of art buyer. Like other rich industrialists of the era, he was as interested in cultivating a reputation as a tastemaker as he was in accruing capital. The art market changed as the culture of aristocratic patronage was replaced by the acquisitive ambitions of self-made men with money to burn. In 1891, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine noted that Leyland's home, cluttered with Italian Renaissance painting alongside Pre-Raphaelite works, embodied his ‘dream of living the life of an old Venetian merchant in modern London’.
Readers, this is your chance to help make Pre-Raphaelite history!
As a long-standing fan of the Antiques Roadshow, I am thrilled to inform you that Geoffrey Munn has contacted me about his ongoing search for the beautiful watch that Dante Gabriel Rossetti designed as a memorial to Elizabeth Siddal.
For those of you unaccountably unfamiliar with his regular appearances on this great British television programme, jewellery expert Munn (FSA, FRSA) specialises in nineteenth-century metalwork and Fabergé, and is managing director of London jewellers, Wartski. Click HERE to see him in action at the British Museum on the Antiques Roadshow.
As some of you may be aware, it is officially Movember, the month during which men grow moustaches to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, and of men's health in general. You can support and find out more about this great cause HERE. ‘Pre-Raphaelites In the City’ applauds this movement’s effort, both on the grounds of compassion and aesthetics. Victorian facial hair was a wonder to behold, and we will probably never see its like again. In a spirit of tribute, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the noble Pre-Raphaelite soup-strainer.
I am pretty sure you are not looking at the right thing in this photograph. Tear your eyes away from Ruskin’s menacing stick and bell-bottomed trousers (centre). Do not be distracted by Rossetti’s poor posture or the hanky peeping untidily from his waistcoat (right). What interests us here is the delicate-looking armchair being dwarfed by the bulk of William Bell Scott (left).
The photo above was taken by William A. Downey in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s garden on 29 June 1863. You can read more about this image on The Victorian Web. Scott must have developed a certain kinship with this chair. Here he is again, this time with one heavy leg dangerously propped on its delicate rush seat.