Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927)

The painter Marie Spartali Stillman was born Marie Spartali, daughter of the Greek consul-general in London and friend of Maria Zambuco, model and one-time muse of Burne-Jones. She received her art training under Ford Madox Brown at Bolsover Square, a fellow pupil being the latter’s daughter, Lucy, who later married William Rossetti, the art-critic brother of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She herself modelled for Burne-Jones and Rossetti. She married another Pre-Raphaelite sympathiser, the American W J Stillman, best known as a journalist, but also an artist and art critic who painted with Rossetti in Robertsbridge and with Ruskin in Switzerland.

With all this Pre-Raphaelitism, it is unsurprising that Spartali Stillman’s own work was itself in that vein – Rossetti-ish girls and subjects from Dante, and other portraits owing something to Burne-Jones, and sometimes in a more modern idiom. One of these latter portraits, perhaps her most reproduced work, is called Cloister Lilies and is on show from time to time in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Her work also included some landscapes.

She exhibited at the Dudley gallery (which specialised in Pre-Raphaelite work) from the mid-1860s, later at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery, and occasionally at the Royal Academy. She settled in Italy after her husband became correspondent for The Times newspaper there, but they returned to Surrey in England on his retirement in 1891. Finally, after his death in 1901, she settled in Kensington.

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