Liverpool artwork of the day – Wednesday October 31 2007. ‘Vanessa’ (1868) by John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896) in Lady Lever Gallery
This painting was George Holt’s first major acquisition for Sudley. He paid £1575 for it in 1885 when it marked a distinct move upmarket in his art collecting. Henceforward, he would concentrate – almost exclusively – on ‘blue chip’ artists marketed by his preferred dealers, Thomas Agnew and Sons.
By the time he painted this work, Millais had abandoned his youthful Pre-Raphaelite principles in favour of popular subjects that showed off his bravura handling of paint. This is a fancy portrait of an artists’ model posing as the lover of the 18th century writer, Jonathan Swift.