Previously announcedThis original and eloquent study brings Frederic Leighton's portrait of May Sartoris to life as an expression of the artist's remarkable friendship with May's mother, celebrated opera singer Adelaide Sartoris. The young Leighton frequented Adelaide's artistic and literary salon in Rome in the early 1850s, and was on intimate terms with her by the time he painted her daughter's likeness in England around 1860. Malcolm Warner places the work both within the tradition of British child portraiture since Joshua Reynolds and within its immediate biographical setting. Bringing together much new research into the circumstances of its creation, he suggests that its wistful mood and intimations of mortality reflect Adelaide Sartoris's melancholy temperament as well as Victorian views of childhood.
Malcolm Warner is deputy director at the Kimbell Art Museum. His publications include The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso, Stubbs and the Horse, and This Other Eden: Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, all published by Yale.