Spartali Stillman, Marie

PAINTER, MODEL (GREECE)
BORN 10 Mar 1844, Edmonton, Middlesex - DIED 6 Mar 1927, London
REAL NAME Spartali, Marie Eeuphrosyne
GRAVE LOCATION London: West Norwood Cemetery, Norwood High Street, Norwood (square 28, grave 7655 (ashes interred in her father's tomb))

Daughter of merchant Michael Spartali, who had been Greek consul in London. She was a pupil of Ford Madox Ford from 1864-1870, together with his daughters Lucy and Catherine. The Pre-Raphaelites called her a 'stunner' because of her looks and Burne-Jones and Rossetti employed her as a model. Her sister Christina also became a model. Swinburne said she was so beautiful that he wanted to sit down and cry. Not only men admired her beauty. When the poet Emma Lazarus visited England and lunched with Marie she reported that she was probably the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

After she turned down Lord Ranelagh, she married the American journalist W.J. Stillman, who worked as a diplomat at the time (his first wife had commited suicide and he had three young children). The preraphaelites were flabbergasted how she could marry someone like him but they happily continued painting her. Gabriel Dante Rossetti observed that her head was very difficult to paint and her charm hard to recreate but she was the model for "Dante's Dream" (1869-1871, Walker Art Gallry, Liverpool), "The Bower Meadow" (1872, Manchester City Art Gallery) and "A Vision of Flametta" (1878, private collection).

Their marriage was difficult and they travelled a lot. From 1878 until 1883 they lived in London and Florence and from 1889 until 1896 in London and Rome.

From 1867 onwards she exhibited at the Royal Academy. Later she exhibited regularly at Grosvenor Gallery and in the USA. Her talent was obvious but still she hardly sold any paintings. Her daughter Effie and her step-daughter Lisa also became artists and her son Michael was an architect. Witnesses stated that even in old age Marie's beauty was striking. She died in London in 1927, aged 82.

Works:
"The Lady Prays - Desire" (1867);
"Joli Coeur";
"Beatrice".

Related persons
• worked as a model for Burne-Jones, Edward Coley
• was pupil to Madox Brown, Ford
• was pupil to Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• worked as a model for Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
• worked as a model for Whistler, James MacNeill
• was a friend of Zambaco, Maria
• is cousin of Zambaco, Maria

Sources
• Thirlwell, Angela, Into the Frame, The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown, Chatto & Windus, London, 2010
The Pre-Raphaelite Collection, 2000
Children of Joseph Stillman III
Mavi Boncuk: 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004

Images

The Spartali mausoleum in the Greek section of West Norwood Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (28 May 2014)

 


Spencer, Herbert

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 13 Apr 2015