Dean Swift Looking at a Lock of Stella’s Hair (1864)

Medium: oil

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1864

Original caption: ‘Dr. Tuke of St. Stephen’s Green, has a lock of her hair, on the envelope of which is written in Dean Swift’s hand, “Only a woman’s hair”‘

This painting was in the collection of Mr L.V. Flatou, and was sold to a Mr Paton at auction by Messrs Christie, Manson and Woods at their auction house on King Street, St James’s Square, on 26 May 1866, fetching 100 guineas.

The Times, 30 Apr 1864:

We prefer for expression Mr. Crowe’s other picture, the single figure of Swift grasping the paper which contains a lock of Stella’s hair. There is intensely painful feeling in the face and attitude, and yet it bears dwelling on.

Athenaeum, 7 May 1864:

Dean Swift looking a a lock of Stella’s hair (594) is a more complete picture than the last [Luther] … Mr. Crowe has produced his best picture in this work. The face of Swift is given with remarkable power. The painting is equal throughout; the colour is better than Mr. Crowe’s wont, and the accessories are produced with care and solidity.

Illustrated London News, 21 May 1864:

Varied as are the merits of [Luther], we think the single figure of Swift gazing with sternly repressed emotion at a lock of Stella’s hair is still finer in expression and power of painting.

Art Journal, 1864, p. 159:

The introduction of portraits has the merit of blending with history the individuality of biography, after a manner which makes each enhance the interest and value of the other. Another carefully studied picture by [Crowe], ‘Dean Swift looking at a lock of Stella’s hair’ (594) illustrates with faithful hand and severe truth a melancholy page in the annals of literature.

Francis Turner Palgrave, ‘The Royal Academy of 1864’, re-published in Essays on Art (Macmillan & Co., 1866):

We might repeat the principal part of this criticism [see criticism of Luther, above] in regard to Mr. Crowe’s ‘Only a woman’s hair’ – Swift’s bitter endorsement on the paper which contained Stella’s. Everything here in the room, the accessories, and the attitude, are so good, that more force, and especially more warmth of colour in the Dean’s features, are felt as wanting to stamp the work with unity and central interest.

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