Millais brothers art collaboration up for sale

A beautiful example of brotherly partnership is coming up for auction on 29 September 2010: a tale of two Millais, a Wyatt and Blenheim Palace.


James Wyatt and his Granddaughter Mary Wyatt

A beautiful example of brotherly partnership is coming up for auction on 29 September 2010. The painting, entitled James Wyatt and his Granddaughter Mary Wyatt is by William Henry Millais, who was helped in its production by his brother, the better-known Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everett Millais. It is expected to fetch £20,000-30,000 in the Bonhams 19th-century Paintings sale.

William Henry Wyatt’s painting is a copy he made of his brother’s John’s painting of the same subject (1849), which is now in the collection of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. The sitter’s son, James Wyatt Junior, liked the original so much that he commissioned William Henry Millais, through his older brother, to create a copy in 1850. John Everett Millais finished the hands and faces of the sitters in his brother’s work, and effectively acted as agent arranging the commission. Also included for sale is a hand written letter from him to the client discussing the painting and requesting payment.

Charles O’Brien, Bonhams’ Department Head, comments, “It is known that the face was painted by the older, more famous brother John Everett Millais but, on close inspection, it seems to me that his hand is evident throughout the picture. It’s a beautiful picture infused with the light of summer, made more wonderful by the hidden message of brotherly love – the older brother supporting and wanting acclaim for his lesser known sibling.”

The subject of the portrait, James Wyatt (1774-1853), was the curator of the Duke of Marlborough’s collection at Blenheim and Mayor of Oxford in 1842-3. He was also a keen wood carver and, shown on the table next to him, is an oval oak box he carved and which was one of his treasured possessions. The original box is also for sale with the painting and all three items (painting, letter and box) are being offered for auction by his descendants. 

If you can’t acquire these charming items for your own collections, you can certainly tread in the footsteps of James Wyatt in his work with the fabulous art collections at Blenheim Palace. The home of the Duke of Marlborough, this Baroque masterpiece, at Woodstock near Oxford, is now a World Heritage Site, and you can explore the State Rooms which are filled with art treasures collected over the past 300 years.

Further information on Bonhams auctions:; on Blenheim Palace: