Friendship and Loss in the Victorian Portrait: May Sartoris by Frederic Leighton

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Malcolm Warner’s 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. 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. (40 color and 8 black-and-white images, 80 pages)