Simeon Solomon in Italy: The First Trip, 1866-1867
by Roberto C. Ferrari
On Monday, 26 August 1867, the art dealer Charles Augustus Howell wrote to the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Of course you know Simeon is back, he is quite as jolly as a Cardinal. I have called on him twice, and find he has brought back from Rome all his fun and kindness.”1 Whether the Cardinal reference implies the frivolity of a bird or the caricature of a Vatican administrator, it tells us something about the appreciation of the Anglo-Jewish Victorian artist Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) by his friends and colleagues. His jocular personality was noted frequently by them, so it is not surprising to find Howell commenting on “all his fun and kindness.” But the two sentences in this letter serve another important purpose, for they provide us with a date by which we know Solomon returned to London. He had gone on a year-long trip to Italy that was critical in his development as an artist working on classical-themed subjects and adapting them for other purposes. It was the first of three trips that Solomon took there, with the second taking place in 1869 and the third in 1870. For his first trip, we know Solomon was in Tuscany by September 1866 and back in London by August 1867, but the actual dates of his trip and his detailed activities over the course of the year are vague. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to reconstruct what is known about Solomon’s first trip to Italy, in order to better understand aspects of his life and work.
The greatest problem with research on Solomon is that there is no Solomon archive. He left little correspondence as compared to other Pre-Raphaelites, and that which survives is almost always undated.2 He appears irregularly in the archives or writings of others, such as Howell, the Rossettis, Swinburne, and the like. As a result, there are large gaps in our appreciation of Solomon. On the other hand, this has provided Solomon scholars with the fascinating and occasionally rewarding challenge of excavating information about the man and his work.
Of course, those who study Victorian art and culture know the reason for the Solomon void. The artist’s arrest in 1873 for homosexual crimes elided him from the histories of Victorian art by scholars ashamed to admit knowledge of Solomon or his work. More interestingly Solomon himself seems to have helped in creating this void, for although he produced work for the next thirty-two years of his life, he often rejected help from family and friends so as not to conform to their standards, and chose instead to live in and out of various London lodging houses and the St. Giles workhouse. It is said that he was a street artist and became an alcoholic during this period, but this generalization gives a false impression of his creative output and following. In fact the Symbolist nature of his work generated a resurgence of interest in him during the 1890s among people like Oscar Wilde and Robbie Ross, as well as members of the Rhymers’ Club such as Lionel Johnson and Arthur Symons.3 It is only in the past twenty years or so that Solomon slowly has been restored to his proper place among the leading artists of the Victorian period, specifically the second generation of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic painters. In 2005 an exhibition of his work held in Birmingham, Munich, and London to commemorate the centenary of his death demonstrated his artistic importance and influence, and the need for continued scholarly research.
Solomon was born in London in 1840, the last of eight children in an artistically-inclined middle-class Jewish family of Ashkenazi descent. His father Michael Solomon ran a hat business but sold this and moved into embossing paper doilies shortly around the time of his last child’s birth. Solomon’s mother, Catherine Levy Solomon, was an amateur artist of miniatures. Michael Solomon died when Simeon was fourteen years of age. Among Simeon’s older brothers, the one who took the most active role in his life was Abraham Solomon (1824-1862) because of their artistic connection. Abraham had begun exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1841 and was the family’s artistic wunderkind. He was eventually voted an Associate of the Royal Academy, but by sad coincidence this took place on the same day of his untimely death at the age of thirty-eight. Simeon’s sister Rebecca (1832-1886) was also an artist and highly influential in his life. As the two youngest Solomon children, they shared a common bond, particularly after Abraham’s death, sharing studio space and socializing together with many in the Pre-Raphaelite circle.4
Solomon attended the Royal Academy schools and premiered his work at the annual summer exhibition in 1858. His early artistic career focused on Old Testament and Judaic subjects, including works such as the oil paintings The Mother of Moses (1860, Delaware Art Museum) and The Child Jeremiah (1861, Private Collection). He also began exploring the image of youths in the guises of priests and altar boys, such as in A Deacon (1863, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery) and Carrying the Scrolls of the Law (1867, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester), both of which were also shown at exhibitions and received well by critics. As Colin Cruise has shown, Solomon’s interest in these beautiful youths were part of his contribution to the Aesthetic Movement and an exploration of his own homosexual desire.5 As the Aesthetic Movement developed in the 1860s, Solomon joined Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton, and others in their adaptation of classical imagery. Victorian classicism suited well the tastes of the rising middle classes, offering nouveaux riches industrialists titillating views of female flesh as a reward for their work. Solomon’s alternative version of classicism, however, drew its inspiration not from Venus, but from Eros and Dionysus, deities that he turned into sensual figures of youthful gods in works such as Love in Autumn (1866, Private Collection) and Bacchus (oil version: 1867, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery; watercolor version: 1867, Private Collection). He also explored images of lesbianism with Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (1864, Tate).
Some of these important classical-themed works come directly from Solomon’s first trip to Italy and were in fact painted while he was there. The best secondary source on Solomon’s trips to Italy is undoubtedly Gayle Seymour’s dissertation on Solomon.6 Her primary focus, however, was the artistic development of Solomon’s pictures, so she describes the events of his trip as part of a chronological discussion of Solomon’s pictures. This present article, then, while drawing on Seymour’s work, elaborates on it by focusing more on Solomon’s biography. This article will help clarify misconceptions about Solomon’s trip that have taken place since her dissertation. In addition, new information will be published here for the first time.
Late in 1865 or early in 1866, Solomon and his sister Rebecca took rooms at 106 Gower Street near Bedford Square in London.7 For the 1866 Royal Academy exhibition, Solomon exhibited Damon and Aglae (1866, Private Collection) and listed Gower Street as his address. In all likelihood this was studio-space for the siblings, for they also used as their residence their mother’s house at 18 John Street. Still, it was not uncommon for artists to reside at their studios. All of this is significant because the artist Edward Poynter and his wife Agnes MacDonald, friends of the Solomons, moved into 106 Gower Street in September 1866.8 The Solomons still retained this address for their 1867 Royal Academy contributions, so it stands to reason that the Poynters took over other rooms in this building, or that Solomon and Rebecca moved into one studio in order to give the Poynters studio and living space. Regardless of the actual arrangement, the timing for all of this would have been perfect, as this was when Simeon had departed for Italy.
Solomon’s exact departure date is unknown, nor do we know his exact route to Italy. Seymour speculates that he may have followed the same route his friend Henry Holiday traveled when he joined Solomon there in 1867: Paris, Turin via Mont Cenis, Bologna, and so on.9 We do know, however, that Solomon did not travel through the Swiss Alps, for in a letter to Frederick Locker in 1869 regarding that year’s trip to Italy, he wrote that it had been his first time in Switzerland.10 The first extant word from Solomon in Italy comes from a letter he wrote to his new patron Frederick Leyland in September 1866 from Leghorn (Livorno). In the letter, he wrote:
I have at length finished the picture of “Heliogabalus”. I hope to your satisfaction. It should have reached you sooner but I have lately been somewhat unsettled, in leaving England and coming to Florence where I intend for a time to stay and work. […] I have sent the picture first to my sister who is kindly acting as my London agent. will you be kind enough to forward the remainder of the amount to her. […] Hoping to hear that the picture gives you satisfaction.11
Leyland was a Liverpool shipping magnate whose residences in London and Liverpool became shrines to Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism. His collection included works by Albert Moore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the infamous Peacock Room by James McNeill A. Whistler and Thomas Jeckyll. Leyland may have begun to commission works by Solomon at the suggestion of Rossetti.12 The picture described in this letter, the watercolor Heliogabalus (1866, Private Collection), is a representation of the androgynous Syrian youth who was Emperor of Rome from 218 to 222. The work was a drawing Solomon may have begun in London and completed in Tuscany for Leyland.13 It is noteworthy that Rebecca was acting as his agent in London, a role rarely played by women in the mid-Victorian period.14
The next word from Solomon is in another letter to Leyland, this time from Solomon’s studio at 22 Via Maggio in Florence, where he presumably arrived by late September.15 Via Maggio is on the south side of the Arno River, where it links the Ponte Santa Trinità with the western edge of the Palazzo Pitti. Solomon also had a second studio to which he moved later during his two-month stay in Florence. This was at 14 Lungarno Acciajoli, a street presently called Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli, located on the Arno between the Ponte Santa Trinità and the Ponte Vecchio. Information on this studio comes from Diana Holman-Hunt, who had written about her grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt. He had been on his way to Egypt with his wife Fanny, but a quarantine prevented them from continuing there, and they decided to remain in Florence. They took a studio at 32 Via Montebello, but Fanny died there in December 1866 after giving birth to their son Cyril. According to Diana Holman-Hunt, “He could no longer bear the studio where he and Fanny had lived and moved to 14 Lungarno Acciajoli—a studio recently vacated by his friend Simeon Solomon.”16
In this second letter to Leyland, Solomon wrote the following:
I hope you do not think I do not sufficiently appreciate the kind manner in which my Sister tells me you have expressed yourself about the “Heliogabalus”, because I have not written to you before this. The reason is that I write a great deal to my family and have but few occasions to write to others. I feared that I should not have made the drawing as satisfactory as it might have been as I finished it at Leghorn where it was so very hot and the flies worried the very paint brush out of my hand, and as they generally were crawling over both eyes at once. You may conceive that my attention was more diverted than I liked from my picture; I am painting an oil picture now which I hope to send to England in a week. I call it “Autumn Love” and it is Eros being blown by Autumn winds along a place of Cypresses near the Sea. I should much like you to see it if you happen to be in London soon.17
This letter is undated, but it must have been written about late October or early November 1866, in particular because of the second painting mentioned by him, a picture now known as Love in Autumn (1866, Private Collection) showing a youthful Eros buffeted by winds amidst fall leaves. This painting is signed with his monogram and dated “1866 Florence.” He did send the picture to his sister, but Leyland did not purchase it. It was instead purchased by Mrs. Eleanor Tong, later Coltart, who had been at one time a model for the Pre-Raphaelites but now was one of their most ardent collectors.18
Ever the networker, Solomon socialized on his travels. We do not know everyone he may have met in Florence, although one person for certain he met was Isabella Blagden, the writer who was a close friend of the poet Robert Browning. Few if any of Blagden’s letters to Browning have survived, but Browning’s responses to her have been published. Blagden had moved in April 1866 to Villa Isetta near the Porta Romana in Florence. Based on the writing habits of Blagden and Browning, it stands to reason that Solomon may have met Blagden in late October or early November. She apparently wrote about having met him to Browning, to which the poet responded: “The ‘Solomon’ you mention is, I fancy, the painter of the best picture in the Exhibition where I saw it—that ‘Habet,’ which was fine indeed. I should like to know him.”19 Habet! (1865, Private Collection), showing women watching a gladiatorial competition, was one of Solomon’s great Royal Academy successes. Browning eventually did meet Solomon in London, and wrote a few times to Blagden about him over the next few years.
Holman-Hunt’s occupation of Solomon’s Arno studio means that he had left Florence by the end of November or early December. It is perhaps not a coincidence that his move was timed with Rebecca’s arrival in Italy, for she had decided to join her brother on his grand tour. There is no determined date of arrival or departure for Rebecca, but it stands to reason that she would have remained in Rome for at least two or three months. If she was continuing to act as her brother’s agent, she may have returned to ensure the display of his watercolor Myrtle Blossoms (1866?, location unknown) at the Dudley Gallery exhibition in February 1867. For certain she had departed by early March, and her time in Rome was artistically productive, as Solomon noted in another letter to Leyland dated 13 March: “My Sister who was with me here for some months took home some admirable work, although perhaps I say it who shouldn’t, I think you will agree with me though if you see her pictures.”20
Rome was Solomon’s favorite Italian city, as he stayed there longer than anywhere else. This, however, was challenged by a visit to Venice, which he made during the winter months, presumably with Rebecca. In this same letter, he told Leyland, “Rome entirely eradicated the remembrance of every city I had been in except Venice which, while of course in every respect totally differing from Rome makes quite as great an impression.” As with other letters, this one also tells us something about how Italy was assisting in his artistic progress:
I sent yesterday through my banker two life size compositions of heads and hands which, as you so kindly expressed a wish to visit my London studio again, I should much like you to see. They are the most careful large [sic] heads I ever painted, indeed the only ones I have ever made into subjects, one represents the God Bacchus as a personification of Pagan religion, the religion of unschooled nature. The other I call “Rosa Mystica” one of the invocative names of the Virgin Mary in her litany. I intend this as a type of Modern Religion or that of restraint. I hope if you see them, you will find that I have advanced in manner and style. I expect that they will arrive about the end of the month and I will ask my sister to send a line to you on their arrival.
The first of the pictures mentioned here is the oil version of Bacchus (1867, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery), which was exhibited that same year at the Royal Academy and later inspired in part Walter Pater’s essay “A Study of Dionysus,” in which he described the figure as “the god of the bitterness of wine, ‘of things too sweet’; the sea-water of the Lesbian grape become somewhat brackish in the cup.”21 The second picture was unusual for Solomon. His subject was inspired by religious art of the Italian Renaissance and possibly even that of the Nazarenes who still had a following in Rome at this time. Despite its uniqueness in his oeuvre at this time, Rosa Mystica (1867, location unknown) was to foreshadow the Christian subjects of Jesus and John the Baptist that appeared in Solomon’s work during the 1880s and 1890s.22
Solomon was among the many artists who frequented Rome’s famous Caffè Greco during his stay there. According to the American artist Elihu Vedder, Solomon’s humor would shine forth in sardonic lectures he gave at the cafe. With regard to astronomy, for instance, he would note “that the moon revolves around the earth at right angles and at great length,” and in the field of natural history he would explain that the “elephant gives birth to its young in large and carefully corded packages.”23 Solomon’s studio in Rome was located at 5 Via degli Avignonesi, within walking distance to the Palazzo Barberini, where the American sculptor William Wetmore Story lived, hosting important guests from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Harriet Hosmer. Among the people Solomon befriended in Story’s set were Christina and Georgina Forbes, two sisters who were friends with Robert Browning as well and lived for a time in Florence. Solomon signed their scrapbook, dating his signature on 3 May 1867.24 An in-depth consideration of other individuals from the Caffè Greco and in Story’s circle has yet to be done and thus will produce a more thorough assessment of Solomon’s activities at this time.
Seymour reports that Solomon and Rebecca met Major Thomas Bell and his wife Emily on 30 December 1866 at a party at Charlotte Cushman’s house in Rome. Bell wrote in her diary: “Several artists were there, amongst them a Miss Solomon and her brother Simeon who has become quite celebrated for his picture called ‘Habet’. He is very young, ugly and Jewish-looking. They say he is a genius.”25 Cushman was a famous American actress who had established herself in Rome and surrounded herself with women sculptors such as Hosmer, giving rise to the vision of the “white marmorean flock” christened by Henry James. According to Vedder, Cushman, whom he described as a “large woman” [his emphasis], enjoyed surrounding herself with celebrities, and when she heard that Solomon (whom Vedder nicknamed Simmit) was in Rome, she demanded he appear before her: “I shall never forget the deep voice and tragic way she said, on being informed that a noted young man was in town, ‘What! Simmit here? Bring him to me!’—at the same time grasping the air with ‘hooked hands.’ I thought of the small, tender, plump Simmit within that grasp.”26 Vedder also described an incident which again shows Solomon’s humorous side when a group had gone for a long walk in the Roman campagna:
Now Simmit was witty and wise, but never pretended to be as wise as Solomon, although as a matter of course he was supposed to hold some of his relative’s peculiar views. We had walked far and were very hungry and thirsty, but were fortunate in finding an osteria with its bush, and turned in, right glad to rest and refresh ourselves. We had to take what we could get—bread, wine, ham and eggs. We drank and ate voraciously, Simmit keeping up with the rest. The weather had been menacing, but we were not prepared for what followed. The sky darkened, there was a muttering of thunder, and the rain began to fall. Simmit went to the door to see what our chances were of getting to Rome with dry skins. Just then there came a blinding flash of lightning, followed by a tremendous roar of thunder, and all Hell seemed to break loose. Simmit coming back to the table, sat down, and quietly remarked as if to himself, “By Jove, what a fearful pother about a little pork!” Thus making another household word.27
In addition to Cushman, Vedder, and others, Solomon also met in Rome the poet Frederick Locker. In November 1866, Locker and his wife Lady Charlotte had arrived in Rome, about the same time as Solomon and his sister. The Solomons and the Lockers did not know one another before Rome, but it was during this visit that they became social acquaintances. They probably met at either one of Cushman’s or Story’s gatherings. In Locker’s appointment diary for 23 March 1867, Locker met with Solomon possibly for lunch or to visit his studio.28 The two began a correspondence soon afterwards, which continued in England for the next few years.
Two surviving letters from this period are dated, presumably in Locker’s handwriting, to April 1867. Because Locker traveled to Naples on 2 April and did not return to Rome until 13 April, these letters must date from the second half of the month. In the first, Solomon thanked Locker for lending him a book and replied that their friend, the illustrator Eleanor Vere Boyle, was welcome to visit him in his studio. Boyle did visit him, according to a letter she wrote to Charlotte Locker on a Monday evening that same month: “I found Mr. Solomon at home today when I called; & I liked him much & was delighted with some of his drawings.”29 In the second extant letter from Solomon to Locker, he asks: “Joy, with whom I called upon you yesterday afternoon, is very anxious to make a medallion of you and he wished me to ask you if you would sit to him if you had no objection and time before you left.”30 Seymour has identified Joy as Albert Bruce Joy, the Irish-born sculptor who was in Rome at the time. If Locker did sit to Joy for the medallion, he had to have done it soon afterwards, because Locker and his wife left Rome on 12 May 1867.
Our last major source of information regarding Solomon’s adventures in Italy comes from his friend Henry Holiday, a decorative artist who became best known for his work in stained glass. Holiday’s reminiscences record much about his early years with Solomon. Indeed, in publishing his memoirs years after Solomon’s downfall and death, he still felt it necessary to defend his inclusion of Solomon:
I am convinced that those qualities which endeared him to all his friends, and with which I was intimately familiar, his straightforward nature, his faithful friendship, his devotion to his art, and his fund of original humour—these qualities were the true characteristics of the man. That which developed later was an aberration, a morbid growth, inexplicable to me, and at variance with all I knew of him when in his right mind. […] That which befell him afterwards cannot alter the fact that for some twenty years he was a valued friend, and as such I must speak of him.31
Holiday recorded their youth together, when they were students at the Royal Academy, the encouragement received from Solomon’s elder brother Abraham, and their association with Marcus Stone and Albert Moore, with whom they started a Sketching-Club. Like Vedder, Holiday remarked on Solomon’s humorous platitudes. Even when they joined the Artists’ Rifles, Solomon’s witticisms prevailed: “Of course we all had to take the oath of allegiance, and a day was appointed when we were all to go and swear. I went with Simeon and he asked me gravely if I thought the sergeant would be satisfied if he said ‘Drat it,’ as he had a conscientious objection to using stronger language.”32
Solomon and Holiday traveled together through the years, often going to Wales or the Lake District on sketching holidays. Thus, it was not unusual for Holiday to travel to Italy and meet up with his longtime friend in Rome. Holiday’s memoirs record that he traveled with an architect introduced to him by William Burges, but curiously this person is never named. Traveling through Paris, they reached Rome early in the morning on Good Friday, 19 April. Upon arriving, they immediately went to visit Solomon in his studio. Solomon assisted them in securing lodgings where he was staying at 5 Via degli Avignonesi. The house was managed by a Signora Giovenale, whom Holiday described as “a rather sad but sweet-looking woman, wonderfully kind and attentive, with a dear little bright daughter just old enough to wait on us.”33 On that first day, Holiday reported that they went to St. Peter’s for the Good Friday service, then to the Forum, the Coliseum, the Caffè Greco, and later back to the Coliseum by moonlight. Holiday wrote that while there he visited frequently with the artist John Moore (brother of their friends Albert and Henry Moore), and he made new friends in the sculptor George Simonds and the painter Edgar Barclay. These were men with whom Solomon probably socialized on a regular basis.
On Friday, 3 May (the same day Solomon was visiting the Forbes sisters), Holiday and his companion left Rome for Assisi. As Holiday was most interested in medievalism, this city would turn out to be the focus of his trip. Solomon apparently joined them for a few days, and they visited Perugia for one of those days. At the end of May, Holiday’s companion returned to England and he returned to Rome. He had decided that he had to visit Naples and Pompeii before he left, and in the beginning of June, Solomon accompanied him South. They stayed there for about ten days. By the middle of the month, Holiday had left Solomon in Rome, made his way to Florence, Pisa, and Milan, and shortly thereafter was back in London.
We know nothing about the remainder of Solomon’s time in Italy. Back in London at the Royal Academy exhibition, Rebecca had submitted work to the annual exhibition for both of them, and in May Solomon’s Roman head of Bacchus was exhibited. Rebecca herself had two pictures on exhibition that year, Heloise and Giovannina—Roma, the latter presumably painted while visiting her brother over the winter months, possibly depicting Signora Giovenale’s young daughter. Unfortunately, both of these pictures by Rebecca are now untraced. Solomon must have begun making his way back to England by late July or early August. He brought with him the watercolor version of Bacchus that is signed and dated “SS 1867 ROMA LONDRA,” signifying where he began and completed it. The picture was purchased by Leyland and exhibited at the Dudley Gallery exhibition in 1868 along with two other works painted in Italy: Heliogabalus and A Patriarch of the Eastern Church (1867, Private Collection).
William Michael Rossetti wrote in his diary for Tuesday, 20 August: “Gabriel tells me that Simeon Solomon is now back from Italy, & has called upon him; &, after all the excessively queer stories about him, demeans himself as if nothing has happened.”34 While it is tempting to read “queer” with regard to Solomon’s homosexuality, this would be anachronistic. However, it does speak to the perception of Solomon as being different—ethnically, socially, and perhaps even sexually—as compared to the rest of the middle-class Pre-Raphaelite circle. Rossetti here also could be passing judgment about Solomon in a way that seems a sharp contrast to Howell’s perception of him as being “jolly as a Cardinal” filled with “fun and kindness” just a few days later in his letter to Swinburne. Rossetti’s perception may in fact say more about his family’s inability to appreciate Solomon’s humor as others in their circle did.
Howell’s wedding to his cousin took place on Wednesday, 21 August 1867. Solomon did not attend. This might seem surprising, since he had expressed such a great desire to see his colleagues and friends back in London. In one of his letters to Leyland, he had written of a momentary aesthetic longing to return to England “to be again among all those painters who are to me so much better than any others, I mean Jones, Rossetti, Whistler and Moore.”35 Many of these same people were at Howell’s wedding, where Solomon would have seen them. But as Carolyn Conroy recently has discovered, there had been another wedding on that same date: Solomon’s elder brother Sylvester had married Eliza Lipman on 21 August 1867.36 This then may be the most logical reason why Solomon returned home when he did.
Solomon’s first trip to Italy became a rite of passage. While he had begun exploring classical themes prior to this trip, a proper visit to Italy to study ancient and Renaissance art inspired him to experiment with new themes, such as images of the Virgin Mary and priests of the Greek church. He drew first-hand on classical subjects like sculptures of Antinous and Renaissance figures like Michelangelo’s Bacchus to craft some of the pictures that are now considered to be among his most important. And it was in Italy that Solomon began to explore the theme of Eros tormented by his own existence, a form of sexual and spiritual self-denial and self-immolation that would continue in his work to come. In some ways this culminated during his next two trips to Italy in 1869 and 1870, at which time he wrote a literary magnus opus, the prose-poem A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep (1871). For Solomon, Italy then was undoubtedly a fountain of creative inspiration.
- Roberto C. Ferrari is a PhD student in the Art History program at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has been published in The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, Notes and Queries, Art Documentation, and other journals. He is the author and webmaster for the Simeon Solomon Research Archive (http://www.simeonsolomon.org).
My thanks to Carolyn Conroy for her comments on a draft of this article and for her constant generosity in sharing her own research with me, in particular the genealogical information on the Solomon family for this article. My thanks also to Catherine Roach for taking time out of her own research to assist me with the Frederick Locker diary at the Huntington Library. In transcribing Solomon’s letters, I have retained his original spelling and grammar, although hyphenation has been altered for publication.
1. Algernon Charles Swinburne, Uncollected Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne, volume 1, edited by Terry L. Meyers (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005), 107.
2. My own work on Solomon has included publishing for the first time some of his extant letters. See, for example, my articles “The Unknown Correspondence of Simeon Solomon,” The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 12 (Spring 2003), 23-34; “To the Rossettis, From the Solomons: Five Unpublished Letters,” Notes and Queries 52, no. 1 (March 2005), 70-75; and “Pre-Raphaelite Patronage: Simeon Solomon’s Letters to James Leathart and Frederick Leyland,” in Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, edited by Colin Cruise and Victoria Osborne (London: Merrell, 2005), 47-55.
3. Carolyn Conroy, University of York, is nearing completion of her dissertation on Solomon’s life and career after his 1873 arrest, a well-documented project which promises to provide answers to many of the gaps in Solomon’s later life.
4. We know even less about Rebecca Solomon’s life than we do about her brother’s. In addition, no known photographic images of her have been identified. She exhibited at the Royal Academy for seventeen years, and critics considered her work noteworthy in the late 1850s and early 1860s. She maintained a somewhat lucrative career even after Simeon’s arrest, exhibiting for instance at the 1874 Society of Lady Artists Exhibition and painting portraits. It is said that like her brother she succumbed to alcoholism, but this is unknown for sure. She was killed in 1886 in an accident involving a hansom cab. For more on Rebecca, see Pamela Gerrish-Nunn, “Rebecca Solomon,” in Geffrye Museum, Solomon, a Family of Painters: Abraham Solomon (1823-1862), Rebecca Solomon (1832-1886), Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) (London: Inner London Education Authority, 1985), 19-23; and Roberto C. Ferrari, “Rebecca Solomon, Pre-Raphaelite Sister,” The Review of the Pre-Raphaelite Society 12, no. 2 (Summer 2004), 23-36.
5. Colin Cruise, “‘Lovely devils’: Simeon Solomon and Pre-Raphaelite Masculinity,” Re-Framing the Pre-Raphaelites: Historical and Theoretical Essays, edited by Ellen Harding (Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1996), 195-210; and Colin Cruise, “‘Pressing all religions into his service’: Solomon’s Ritual Paintings and Their Contexts,” in Love Revealed, op. cit., 57-63.
6. Gayle Marie Seymour, “The Life and Work of Simeon Solomon (1840-1905),” dissertation, University of California-Santa Barbara, 1986.
7. While it is possible that the building numbers on Gower Street may have changed since the days the Solomons resided there, 106 Gower Street still stands near Bedford Square and is presently one of a series of row houses occupied by departments of University College London.
8. A.W. Baldwin, The MacDonald Sisters (London: Peter Davies, 1960), 160. Edward Poynter and Agnes MacDonald were married on Thursday, 9 August 1866, in the parish church of Wolverhampton. This was a joint ceremony with Agnes’s sister Louisa, who married Alfred Baldwin and became the mother of Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Two other MacDonald sisters made famous marriages: Georgiana to Edward Burne-Jones, and Alice to John Kipling (becoming parents of the novelist Rudyard Kipling). Poynter and Burne-Jones were friends with Solomon, and Agnes and Louisa MacDonald were friends with Rebecca, which explains the easy move into 106 Gower Street.
9. Seymour, op. cit., 124-5, n. 261.
10. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Locker, [13 August 1869].
11. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Leyland, September .
12. For more on the correspondence and working relationship between Solomon and Leyland, see my essay “Pre-Raphaelite Patronage,” in Love Revealed, op. cit.
13. Rossetti had previously written to Leyland on Friday, 3 August 1866, about this work: “I heard Burne Jones speak yesterday of Solomon’s Heliogabalus as one of his very finest drawings. I have not yet seen it myself.” Francis L. Fennell, Jr., ed., The Rossetti-Leyland Letters: The Correspondence of an Artist and His Patron (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1978), 3. This suggests that Leyland either saw a preliminary drawing of this work and Solomon’s watercolor version was painted in Italy, or the drawing was the watercolor which Solomon began in London and thus finished in Italy. It is important to note that in the 2005 exhibition catalogue, Cruise and Osborne cite the full title of this work as Heliogabalus, High Priest of the Sun and Emperor of Rome, 118-122 AD, with their title presumably coming from the original Dudley Gallery exhibition catalogue. We can only assume that it was Solomon who assigned the emperor the wrong dates. Hadrian ruled from 117-138, while Elagabalus (or Heliogabalus or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus) ruled from 218-222. However, considering the young emperor’s known bisexual nature, it is perhaps worth considering that Solomon had in mind the idea of connecting the figure to Antinous, the youth who had been Hadrian’s lover. Antinous was a figure he drew on in other works such as Antinous Dionysiacus (c.1856), a work now untraced.
14. Upon receipt of Heliogabalus, Rebecca sent it with a letter to Leyland dated 26 October 1866. Like her brother, Rebecca often sought to market her own work as an artist and invited Leyland to visit Gambart’s Winter Exhibition where she had a work on display. Heretofore unknown, that picture now has been identified as Love’s Disguise. It was engraved in the Illustrated London News on 15 December 1866, and reviewed in the Jewish Chronicle on 28 December 1866. Its present whereabouts is unknown.
15. Seymour incorrectly transcribed the return address on Solomon’s letter as 22 Via Maggier, an error easily done as Solomon’s handwriting is often difficult to read. See Seymour, op. cit., 126.
16. Diana Holman-Hunt, My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1969), 253.
17. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Leyland from Florence, [n.d.].
18. For more on Eleanor Tong Coltart, see my article “The Unknown Correspondence of Simeon Solomon,” op. cit.
19. Robert Browning, Dearest Isa: Robert Browning’s Letters to Isabella Blagden, edited by Edward C. McAleer (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1951), 251.
20. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Leyland, 13 March 1867.
21. Walter Pater, “A Study of Dionysus”, Fortnightly Review 26 (December 1876), 767-8.
22. For a reproduction of Rosa Mystica, see Simon Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon (Stroud, England: Catalpa Press, 1984), Plate 45.
23. Elihu Vedder, The Digressions of V (1910), reprint, edited by Robert Lee White (New York; London: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1970), 337-8.
24. My thanks to Terry Meyers for informing me about Solomon’s visit with the Forbes sisters. This scrapbook presumably is in a private collection whose current whereabouts is unknown.
25. Cited in Seymour, op. cit., 132-3.
26. Vedder, op. cit., 375.
27. Ibid., 337.
28. Frederick Locker, Unpublished Diary, 1867. Frederick Locker’s first wife, Lady Charlotte Christian Bruce, was the daughter of the Earl of Elgin (of the Elgin marbles) and a friend of Queen Victoria. His second wife was Hannah Jane Lampson, the only child of a baronet, Sir Curtis Miranda Lampson. In order to properly inherit the Lampson estate, in 1885 he changed his name to Frederick Locker-Lampson. For more on Locker, see Austin Dobson, “Lampson, Frederick Locker- (1821–1895),” revised by Katharine Chubbuck, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), online edition edited by Lawrence Goldman, May 2006, (accessed 17th January, 2009). http://0-www.oxforddnb.com.library.metmuseum.org:80/view/article/16896 .
29. Hon. Eleanor Vere Boyle, Letter to Lady Charlotte Locker, [April 1867].
30. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Locker, [April 1867].
31. Henry Holiday, Reminiscences of My Life (London: William Heinemann, 1914), 37. For more on Holiday and Solomon, including a consideration of their “break-up” later, see Frank Sharp, “‘A Friendship I held dear’: Simeon Solomon and the Royal Academy Circle,” in Love Revealed, op. cit., 23-9.
32. Holiday, op. cit., 65.
33. Ibid., 124.
34. William Michael Rossetti, Unpublished Diary, 1867.
35. Simeon Solomon, Letter to Frederick Leyland, 13 March 1867.
36. Jewish Chronicle, 23 August 1867, 1. Of the eight children born to Michael and Catherine Solomon, only three married, the last being Sylvester. The two other siblings, Abraham Solomon and Ellen Solomon Lizars, both died shortly after their marriages.
Baldwin, A.W. (1960) The MacDonald Sisters, London: Peter Davies.
Boyle, Hon. Eleanor Vere “Letter to Lady Charlotte Locker”, [April 1867], Locker-Lampson Papers, Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Browning, Robert (1951) Dearest Isa: Robert Browning’s Letters to Isabella Blagden, ed. Edward C. McAleer, Austin: University of Texas Press.
Cruise, Colin (1996) “‘Lovely devils’: Simeon Solomon and Pre-Raphaelite Masculinity”, in Re-Framing the Pre-Raphaelites: Historical and Theoretical Essays, ed. by Ellen Harding, 195-210, Aldershot, England: Scolar Press.
Cruise, Colin, and Victoria Osborne, eds., (2005) Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, London: Merrell.
Dobson, Austin “Lampson, Frederick Locker- (1821–1895)” Rev. Katharine Chubbuck, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Online edition edited by Lawrence Goldman, May 2006. http://0-www.oxforddnb.com.library.metmuseum.org:80/view/article/16896 (accessed January 17, 2009).
Fennell, Jr., Francis L., ed. (1978) The Rossetti-Leyland Letters: The Correspondence of an Artist and his Patron. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Ferrari, Roberto C. “Rebecca Solomon, Pre-Raphaelite Sister”, The Review of the Pre-Raphaelite Society 12, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 23-36.
________ “To the Rossettis, From the Solomons: Five Unpublished Letters”, Notes and Queries 52, no. 1 (March 2005): 70-75.
________ “The Unknown Correspondence of Simeon Solomon”, The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 12 (Spring 2003): 23-34.
Geffrye, Museum (1985) Solomon, a Family of Painters: Abraham Solomon (1823-1862), Rebecca Solomon (1832-1886), Simeon Solomon (1840-1905), London: Inner London Education Authority.
Holiday, Henry (1914) Reminiscences of My Life, London: William Heinemann.
Holman-Hunt, Diana (1969) My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Illustrated London News.
Locker, Frederick “Unpublished Diary for 1867”, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.
Pater, Walter “A Study of Dionysus”, Fortnightly Review 26 (December 1876), 752-72.
Reynolds, Simon (1984) The Vision of Simeon Solomon, Stroud, England: Catalpa Press.
Rossetti, William Michael “Unpublished Diary”, University of British Columbia Library, Vancouver.
Seymour, Gayle Marie (1986) “The Life and Work of Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)”, Dissertation, University of California-Santa Barbara.
Solomon, Rebecca “Letter to Frederick Leyland, 26 October 1866”, Pennell Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Solomon, Simeon “Letters to Frederick Leyland, [1866-1867]”, Pennell Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
________ “Letters to Frederick Locker, [1867-1869]”, Locker-Lampson Papers, Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles (2005) Uncollected Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne, vol. 1, ed. Terry L. Meyers, London: Pickering & Chatto.
Vedder, Elihu (1970) The Digressions of V. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1910, reprint, ed. Robert Lee White, New York; London: Johnson Reprint Corp.
IMAGES AVAILABLE ONLINE (January 2009)
Bacchus (1867, oil version), Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, http://www.bmagic.org.uk/objects/1961P52
Bacchus (1867, watercolor version), Private Collection, http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/picture.aspx?id=6774&name=bacchus
Carrying the Scrolls of the Law (1867), Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, http://museumsunwrapped.man.ac.uk/imagezoom/imagezoom.php?irn=4640&reftable=ecatalogue&refirn=769
Damon and Aglae (1866), Private Collection, http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/picture.aspx?id=7913&name=damon-and-aglae
A Deacon (1863), Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, http://www.bmagic.org.uk/objects/2003.0174
Heliogabalus (1866), Private Collection, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heliogabalus_High_Priest_of_the_Sun.jpg
Love in Autumn (1866), Private Collection, http://www.artmagick.com/pictures/picture.aspx?id=6221&name=love-in-autumn
The Mother of Moses (1860), Delaware Art Museum, http://www.preraph.org/searchresults.php?artist=Simeon+Solomon&class=
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (1864), Tate, http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=13634&searchid=12142