This impressive piece focuses on the facial features of the enchantress Circe who would later appear within the famous painting of 1892. This connection increases the value of this drawing, as does, obviously, its connection to the artist himself who is still considered one Britain's finest from the late 19th and early 20th century. He arrived late to the Pre-Raphaelite movement but displayed many of their qualities, alongside some of his own unique ideas. He is today held in as high regard as perhaps he ever has been, though most of his drawings remain in private collections that can rarely be accessed by the public. Thankfully, this piece was recently sold at auction which gave us an opportunity to see and document it in greater detail. It would eventually sell for £16,250 at Sotheby's in 2016, which was a significant increase on the valuation that it provisionally received.
This item was one of the major draws within an auction titled Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art that was held in 14 July 2016. Both of these selections of artists are highly prized, meaning many collectors would have been interested in the display at the time, hence why this piece achieved a sale prize that was noticeably higher than its original estimate of £8,000 — £12,000. The auction would also include other original artworks from the likes of Lord Leighton, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Some of the other drawings would actually sell for much more than the item included here, suggesting that Waterhouse is not currently quite as sought after as the other names featured here, though much can depend on the individual artworks themselves and the circumstances of sale day.
This study for the Circe Invidiosa was included with around twenty other drawings together in the same lot when sold originally back in 1926 by the artist's widow. She had so many of his drawings left over that it would prove too big a task to sell them individually, and there was also not quite the same level of value in each of them then as there would be today. The purchaser of the lot was Dr James Nicoll who is believed to have then passed this piece onto a friend at a later date. Waterhouse is today considered to have been an exceptional draughtsman and some of his other drawings have actually commanded higher prices than this, with his oil paintings now worth many millions each in most cases. Thankfully, a number of them reside in public collections which we can continue to access today.