"The Millais Ring" which sealed the love between Pre-Raphaelite brothers Holman Hunt and Millais to be sold at Bonhams

9 Oct 2013
London, Knightsbridge

"The Millais ring", a gold signet ring belonging to founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Holman Hunt, is to be sold at Bonhams Knightsbridge Jewellery sale on 9th October.

The ring is one of 11 lots from the jewellery collection of the Holman Hunt family including brooches, pendants and necklaces belonging to the artist. The collection as a whole is worth over £10,000.

William Holman Hunt met John Everett Millais at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Together, in 1848, they founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – a close knit group of artists whose entangled lives and loves were deeply rooted together by their work.

The two artists, Holman Hunt and Millais were extremely close friends. Allegedly, they were to love each other all their lives and neither made secret of their emotions. When Hunt left for the holy-land to further his religious painting, a distraught Millais wrote:

"In truth I don't think I should have the strength to say goodbye - scarcely a night passes but what I cry like an infant over the thought that I may not see you again - I wish I had something to remember you by, and I desire that you should go to Hunt and Roskell and get yourself a signet ring which you must always wear... have your initials engraved thereon..."

"The Millais ring" offered at Bonhams is the ring that Hunt ordered and which he wore until he died – engraved with the 'WHH' of his initials combined with an 'M' for Millais.

Another highlight in the Holman Hunt collection is a shell cameo brooch which was a gift from the artist to second wife Fanny Waugh (estimated at £1,000-£1,500). After Fanny's death in childbirth, Hunt controversially went on to marry her sister, Edith. The group entangled further as Millais fell in love with John Ruskin's wife, Effie, as she modelled for his paintings. The couple succeeded to marry after the collapse and annulment of Effie's marriage to Ruskin.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Pre-Raphaelite movement sought to create art that was 'heartfelt', devoted to truth and a detailed study of nature. Members wished to emphasise freedom and individuality in ideas and methods of painting. They rebelled against the classical poses and 'unnatural' compositions in the work of artists such as Raphael which they believed had corrupted art, naming their work, 'Pre-Raphaelite'.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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