|Marie Spartali Stillman (self-portrait)|
Spartali Stillman became associated at an early age with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1864, she sat for him and, telling him that she herself wanted to learn to paint, took lessons from Ford Madox Brown. From 1867, she started to exhibit her work professionally, while continuing to model – for Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and John Spencer Stanhope among others. In 1871, she married the American Pre-Raphaelite painter and journalist, William James Stillman. The last retrospective of her work was at the Delaware Art Gallery in 2015/16 .
Spartali Stillman is being honoured, of course, in her own right. But in the London Greek community of the day, she was simply the most talented of three cousins who were closely associated and collectively known as ‘the Three Graces’ because of their striking beauty and presence and their role as models and muses for the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the second generation. Alongside Spartali Stillman, Maria Zambaco (née Kassaveti) (1843-1914) was the mistress and model of Edward Burne-Jones; Aglaia Koronio (née Ionidi) (1834-1906) was one of William Morris’s great confidantes. All three were artists. In this last year, I have found myself increasingly thinking about their milieu because of the church in which I am now worshipping: St Martin’s on the Hill in Scarborough.
|St Martin's on the Hill|
It is one of the features of work by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. that their ecclesiastical art no more disguises the identities of the models for their murals, images and stained glass than do the paintings by individual members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The images of several saints and angels in the stained glass at St Martin’s are portraits of Pre-Raphaelite “stunners”: the non-PC term given by Rossetti and friends to the several tall, striking and beautiful women who posed for them and became entangled in their lives as lovers, wives and friends. A lovely window by Morris and Burne-Jones is devoted to the ‘three Marys’ (the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany) with the images based on Georgiana Macdonald, who married Burne-Jones; Lizzie Siddall, the wife of Rossetti; and Annie Miller, one of Rossetti’s many lovers. We have, I think, no window modelled on Spartali Stillman. But one of the most intense windows, designed by Burne-Jones, daringly depicts his mistress Zambaco variously as St Dorothea, St Theophilus and an Archangel, with gorgeous flaming wings. This is certainly a connection I didn’t expect to find, mediated by the personalities and practices of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, between the London Greek community of late Victorian England and the High Church circles of then fashionable Scarborough.
28 January 2023
 See the English Heritage announcement here.
 A book was produced to accompany the exhibition: Margaretta S. Frederick & Jan Marsh (ed.), Poetry in Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Marie Spartali Stillman (Seattle: Marquand Books, 2015).
 There is an excellent overview of the milieu of 'the Three Graces' in Victoria Solomonidis-Hunter's article (in two parts) for the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery: 'Aglaia Coronio née Ionides (1834-1906)', at https://www.fownc.org/pdf/newsletter103.pdf (pp.6-8) and https://www.fownc.org/pdf/newsletter104.pdf (pp.6-8). An image gallery, giving biographical details and illustrations, of the Three Graces and their work is available here (thanks to Victoria for sharing this link with me).
 The Friends of St Martin’s have produced a good website and several guides and booklets exploring different aspects of the church and its Pre-Raphaelite heritage.