Sandys executed three other versions of this subject, all with slight differences. The prime version depicts the Mayde, half-length, arms folded in front of her waist, and swathed in white drapery. It was sold at Christie's London, 8 April 1929, lot 78 to Dr. James Nicholl, who gave it to the University of Dundee in 1951 (Elzea,op.cit., no. 5.48). As with the present drawing, the other versions depict the head only. Nicholl bequeathed one of them, inscribed 'The White Ladie of Avenel' (Elzea, op.cit., no. 5.49), again to the University of Dundee, in 1951. The other bust-length drawing is in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Elzea, op.cit., no. 5.51).
The sitter is the artist's daughter Mildred Sandys, born circa 1872. The subject is taken from Sir Walter Scott's novel, The Monastery, published in 1820. The beautiful white maid was a capricious spirit in the tradition of Shakespeare's Ariel. The product of a 'mysterious union between the creatures of the elements and the children of men' (Scott's Introduction to The Monastery, ed. 1830). She was first summoned by the young Halbert Glendenning at the close of chapter 11:
'Thrice to the holly brake-
Thrice to the well:-
I bid thee awake,
White Maid of Avenel!
Noon gleams on the Lake-
Noon Glows on the Fell-
Wake thee, O wake,
White Maid of Avenel!'
Signature: Signed 'F Sandys' (upper left) and inscribed 'The White Mayde of Avenel', (upper left, within a cartouche)
London, Leicester Galleries, Exhibition of Drawings by Frederick Sandys and other Eminent Artists, February-March 1904, no. 22 or 23. London, New Gallery, 5th Exhibition of the International Society, 1905, no, 167, lent by Harold Hartley.
B. Elzea, Frederick Sandys 1829-1902, A Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2001, no. 5.50.
Harold T. Hartley and by descent to
Sir Harold Hartley.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 23 May 1962, lot 60 (£80 to A. Matthews).
With Hartnoll and Eyre, 1968.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 11 June 1993, lot 98.
About Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys
British, 1829-1904, Norwich, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom