Spartali Stillman, Marie

BORN 10 Mar 1844, Hornsey, Greater London - DIED 6 Mar 1927, London: Ashburn Place, South Kensington
BIRTH NAME Spartali, Marie Eeuphrosyne
GRAVE LOCATION Brookwood, Surrey: Brookwood Cemetery (Plot 025 (ashes))

Daughter of merchant Michael Spartali, who had been Greek consul in London. She was a pupil of Ford Madox Ford from 1864 to 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.

Several sources state that she was cremated at Brookwood. There is a memorial stone for her at that cemetery, but is has also been stated that her ashes were interred at her father's tomb in West Norwood Cemetery and a newsletter from The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery from 1992 refers to her being buried there.

"The Lady Prays - Desire" (1867);
"Joli Coeur";

Related persons
• worked as a model for Burne-Jones, Edward
• was pupil to Madox Brown, Ford
• was a friend of Morris, Jane
• 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

10/7/1883Vernon Lee has a talk with Edward Burne-Jones. In a letter to her mother Matilda she wrote that she was at a dull diner with the Stephens, but that she had a long talk with Burne-Jones about Mrs Stillman who was the most beautiful woman Burne-Jones had ever seen. He also told her he admired the novelist Ouida greatly. [Burne-Jones, Edward][Lee, Vernon][Ouida]

• Clarke, John M., London's Necropolis, A Guide to Brookwood Cemetery, Stanlake Publishing, Catrine, 2018
• Gagel, Amanda, Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, 1856 - 1935, Volume I, 1865-1884, Routledge, 2016
• Thirlwell, Angela, Into the Frame, The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown, Chatto & Windus, London, 2010
The Pre-Raphaelite Collection, 2000
Mavi Boncuk: 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
Children of Joseph Stillman III

Speer, Albert

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 04 Jun 2022