A chalk drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti which was bought from a second-hand bookshop for £75 is to go on display in ‘Collecting and Giving: Highlights from the Sir Ivor and Lady Batchelor Bequest’. The drawing, bought by Sir Ivor Batchelor, is part of the Sir Ivor and Lady Batchelor Bequest, made to the Fitzwilliam in 2015, with highlights of the collection to be displayed from December 4.
Rossetti featured the model Alexa Wilding, whom he first met in the street, in the 1868 study 'Ricorditi Di Me, Che Son La Pia' (from Dante’s Purgatorio) for a painting he completed in 1881. He used his better-known muse Jane Morris, wife of arts and crafts designer William Morris, for the final painting, 'La Pia De’ Tolomei', which is now in the Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas. Sir Ivor wrote in his notebook, “It was a red letter day in 1956 when off the floor of Robert Aitken’s shop, in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, with a windfall of royalties from a book, we bought for £75 Rossetti’s very fine and very large drawing for La Pia.” The picture is still in its original frame with a typewritten note from Rossetti on the reverse, with his instructions for care. It reads “This drawing not being ‘set’ will require the greatest care if ever removed from its frame”, and was followed by Rossetti’s address.
The exhibition, features 86 objects from the overall collection of 461 items including drawings, bronzes, glass and pieces of English pottery. Also in the display is a bronze statue of Perseus by Sir Alfred Gilbert, who famously sculpted Eros in Piccadilly Circus.
Sir Ivor Batchelor, who was Professor of Psychiatry at Dundee University from 1967 to 1982, died in 2005 aged 88. Lady Batchelor died in 2014. The couple first made contact with the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1990 and generously donated objects from their collection over the following decade. This will be the first time items from the Batchelor bequest are exhibited together, and they will be displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum from December 4 2018 to March 3 2019.
Here is some of the press coverage:
The Guardian Rossetti drawing found in Edinburgh bookshop to go on display
The Metro £75 Rossetti goes on show for first time in 150 years The Times Rossetti’s unsung beauty in spotlight
The Daily Mail Rossetti drawing bought in second-hand bookshop for £75 to go on show at museum
BBC News Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum to exhibit Rossetti work after 150 years