Sir John Everett Millais, PRA (British, 1829-1896) The Minuet
Lot 93
Sir John Everett Millais, PRA
(British, 1829-1896)
The Minuet
£40,000 - 60,000
US$ 67,000 - 100,000
Lot Details
Sir John Everett Millais, PRA (British, 1829-1896)
The Minuet
signed with monogram (lower right)
10 x 25.5cm (3 15/16 x 10 1/16in).


    with Thomas Agnew and Son, Manchester, from the artist
    unknown buyer, recorded as 'James', 1 December 1867
    with Thomas Agnew and Son, Manchester
    Abraham Haworth, purchased 12 February 1873
    John Goodier Haworth
    Thence by descent

    Manchester, Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, no. 1432
    London, Guildhall, Loan exhibition of water-colour drawings, 1896

    Ex. cat, Royal Jubilee Exhibition (1887, Manchester), no. 1432
    Walter Armstrong, Critical notes reprinted from the 'Manchester Guardian', Royal Jubilee Exhibition, Fine Art Section (Manchester, 1887), p. 54

    The provenance of the present lot reveals much about the art world of the 1860s and 1870s. Millais was at the height of his powers when it was produced and the art dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons in Manchester acquired it directly from the artist. The eventual owner was Abraham Haworth, a successful textile merchant based near Manchester. This is typical of the time when there was a great demand for art, particularly modern British masters, from the class of merchants, bankers and industrialists who had made Britain's industrial cities so wealthy in the course of the 19th century.

    Abraham and his brother Jesse Haworth were collectors with wide interests, from paintings to Wedgewood porcelain. The extent of their painting collections is demonstrated by the selection of works they lent to the Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887. Abraham lent 21 pictures including works by JMW Turner, Holman Hunt and Millais, including the present lot.

    The first known version of The Minuet was painted in oils in 1866 and exhibited at the RA in 1867. It was also acquired by Agnews and sold to the civil engineering contractor Sir John Kelk. It was such a success that there was a demand for versions of the picture, Millais responded by painting two more versions, one in watercolour being the present lot, the other now in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg.

    It depicts Millais's first daughter, Effie, curtsying as her aunt Alice Gray plays the piano. It is a good example of Millais adding new energy to the genre of child portraits and child genre scenes that had been popularized by Reynolds in the preceding century, the Rococo tapestry behind further enhances this link, as does the blue and white china tea set seen on the George III chair. The red of the child's dress and the front-on pose also recalls the Spanish Infantas in Velasquez's royal commissions. This admiration for Velasquez and Reynolds is evident in Millais's work from his early career onwards with his RA diploma picture entitled A Souvenir of Velasquez. The debt to the 18th and 17th centuries is clear but the daring cropping of the left hand figure, chair and candelabra also show how Millais was also in touch with more recent developments in Paris and London.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the dimensions should read 35 x 24.5cm (13 3/4 x 9 3/4in) and not as incorrectly stated in the catalogue.
  1. Peter Rees
    Specialist - 19th Century Paintings
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7468 8201
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