William Clarke Wontner (British, 1857-1930) Zorahayda
Lot 49W
William Clarke Wontner
(British, 1857-1930)
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 23,111) inc. premium
Lot Details
William Clarke Wontner (British, 1857-1930)
signed and dated 'W. Wontner/1905' (lower left); inscribed 'William Wontner/ 1 The Studios/ Edwardes Square Kensington/ No. 1. "Zorahayda"/ Price £315.-.-.' in the artist's hand on a label attached to the back board, also bears another label stamped in red LAE (for Liverpool Autumn Exhibition) and numbered below 206 (corresponding to its number in the 1905 autumn exhibition)
oil on canvas
102 x 102cm (40 1/8 x 40 1/8in).


    London, Royal Academy, 1905, no. 542
    Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, no. 206, priced £315

    Henry Blackburn, Academy Notes, 1905, p. 28, listed
    The Year's Art, 1906, p. 86, listed

    The subject of the present lot was inspired by The Tales of the Alhambra of 1829 by Washington Irving (1783-1859) in which he recounted a legend about three beautiful Moorish princesses who were locked up by their father in a tower in the Alhambra, Granada. Zorahayda, the youngest was timid and shy but like her sisters Zayda and Zorayda, she fell in love with three Christian cavaliers. Aided by their mother they made plans to escape and flee with their lovers; the elder two succeeded but Zorahayda faltered when descending the ladder and so remained in the tower and died soon after.

    Zorahayda accords with a few other of Wontner's paintings showing an exotic beauty in an ornate interior, notably The Persian Girl (shown at the New Gallery 1901) and The Dancing Girl (probably the same as Scheherazade shown at the New Gallery 1903). In all three the same model (almost certainly Jessie) tilts her head and shoulders to one side and bends her legs as she sits upon a couch. The scene includes both familiar and atypical elements. Unusual is the use of drapery in the top right hand corner as well as the mother of pearl casket, the fan and to an extent the leopard skin rug although Wontner also included a fur rug in his 1893 portrait of Mrs Hallam Parr and Hal. Similarly so the foliate tracery seen through an open window compares with the background in The Persian Girl.

    Presumably Zorahayda failed to sell at the RA 1905 Summer Exhibition so was subsequently sent to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Autumn Exhibition, (priced in the catalogue and also on the label verso £315).

    We are grateful to Alice Munro-Faure for her assitance in cataloguing this lot. The work will appear in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
  1. Sam Travers
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