The White Rabbit, c.1871, Watercolour and gouache on canvas, 22 x 32 inches (56 x 81 cm). Private collection.
he model for the female in the foreground attempting to feed the white rabbit was Maria Zambaco. Although Edward Burne-Jones and Zambaco had been carrying on a passionate love affair since 1868, Stanhope was not yet acquainted with Burne-Jones’s mistress until early in 1870. T. M. Rooke recalled a visit by Stanhope to Burne-Jones’s studio in the winter of 1869/1870 where Stanhope was enthusiastic in his admiration for Burne-Jones’s watercolour of Phyllis and Demophoön, and particularly for the head of Phyllis for which Zambaco was the model (Lago 77). In 1870 Burne-Jones painted his next major work, Love Among the Ruins, in Stanhope’s new studio at his home Little Campden House in London. Zambaco again was the model for the female figure in this painting and undoubtedly she was a frequent caller to the studio where both artists were working. Maria’s distinctive facial features are apparent in The White Rabbit, although the hairstyle is unusual for her. The nose, chin, and deep labiomental fold are characteristic of her facial appearance, however. Maria would go on to model for further paintings by Stanhope from this time period, such as his Andromeda of 1872, and for Procris in Cephalus and Procris, also of 1872. A pencil study of the head of Maria for The White Rabbit is in a private Canadian collection.
The background is very Italianate and similar backgrounds can be found in many of Stanhope’s paintings, such as his The Mill Pond of 1877, and particularly the landscapes he executed after his move to Florence. The background is also reminiscent of some of the works of his friend Burne-Jones, such as The Mill of 1882, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Stanhope’s painting predates this, however, and was shown at both the Dudley Gallery and the Royal Manchester Institution in 1871. Similar figures to those in the background of The White Rabbit can be found in other works by Stanhope such as his The Shulamite of 1878 and The Waters of Lethe by the Plains of Elysium of 1880.
Lago, Mary: Burne-JonesTalking. His conversations 1895-1898 preserved by his studio assistant Thomas Rooke. London: John Murray, 1982.
Last modified 7 May 2022