Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Proserpine totals $5.2m to set new artist record

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's celebrated painting Proserpine has demolished the world record for the artist's work, selling as part of Sotheby's British and Irish Art auction in London on November 19.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Prosperine
Rossetti produced many different versions of Proserpine in a number of mediums. This example was made using coloured chalks.

The piece, considered by Rossetti as his most beautiful creation, sold for £3.2m ($5.2m), making a 77.7% increase on its £1.8m high estimate.

The previous record for Rossetti's work was set by his The Salutation of Beatrice, which made £2.2m ($3.5m) at Christie's in 2012.

Proserpine depicts the Roman goddess who inhabits the underworld during winter, using William Morris' wife and pre-Raphaelite muse, Jane Morris, as a model.

As stated by Christie's: "The word 'iconic' is overused but there are pictures that define an artist's oeuvre.

"Dante Gabriel Rossetti's haunting image of Proserpine is one such picture that should be regarded as no less than an icon of European art - instantly recognisable and representing the artist at the zenith of his originality."

Rossetti was enamoured with his own composition, and revisited it many times, creating several varying examples in both oils and chalks. The original, dated 1871, Rossetti refused to part with, bequeathing it to Jane Morris upon his death. It was later donated to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford by her daughter in 1939.

This coloured chalk example, dated 1880, was acquired by one of the artist's greatest patrons, William Graham, an MP for Glasgow who had one of the finest collections of pre-Raphaelite works. It was given by Rossetti to Graham in order to settle at debt of £100.

On December 4, Sotheby's will auction Rossetti's A Christmas Carol with an estimate of £6m ($9.3m), possibly beating Prosperine to set another record.

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Images: Sotheby's

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