Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1864 - 1947)

oil on canvas

44.0 x 30.5 cm

signed lower right: Bunny

$35,000 - 45,000

Mrs J.S. Reid, Victoria
Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 1981
Godfrey Hayes, Melbourne, until 1983
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 2 November 1983, lot 935 (as 'Portrait of Mrs Bunny')
Christopher Day Gallery, Sydney, 1984
Private collection, United States of America


A Selection of Australian and European Paintings 1820–1920, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 19–29 May 1981, cat. 30 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)
On extended loan to Newcastle Region Art Gallery, New South Wales (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

Jeanne-Heloise Morel married Rupert Bunny in London in March 1902, the beautiful French art student appearing in Bunny's work soon after they met in Paris in the 1890s. She became his favourite model, featuring in all his great works of the time - Dolce Farniente, c1897 (private collection, Melbourne), Endormies, c1904 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), A Summer Morning, c1908 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), and countless others. Bunny was entranced by her beauty and it shone throughout his work. While Bunny's subject pictures tend to claim most attention, he was also a very gifted portrait painter. The impressive list from the first years of the new century alone included the magisterial Dame Nellie Melba, c1902 (National Gallery of Victoria), Edward George Henry 8th Earl of Sandwich, c1902 (Corporation of Huntington, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom), and the vivacious group painting, Portrait of Mrs Herbert Jones and Her Daughters, c1903 (private collection, Sydney). He undertook numerous commissions in France, Hungary, England, and in Australia on his triumphal return visit of 1911.

Bunny's first formal portrait of Jeanne was exhibited in the Paris Salon of the Société des Artistes Français (Old Salon) with the title 'Portrait de Mlle M...'. It was redolent of all the grace and elegance of the belle époque, followed immediately by a more casual but equally beautiful portrait of Jeanne in a striped dress à la mode, the whereabouts of which unfortunately is unknown. Moving to London and marriage in 1902, Jeanne was the subject of several superb portraits - Portrait of the Artist 's Wife in the Art Gallery of New South Wales; another with the same title in the National Gallery of Victoria; and a favourite, Jeanne with Her Terrier (private collection). Another, large scale Salon work followed in 1903,The Muslin Dress, c1903 (National Gallery of Victoria), a harmony of light, fabric, and feminine beauty. Some years ago, a previously unknown portrait of Jeanne appeared on the London market and was snapped up by an Australian collector. Given the title 'Mrs Bunny (On a Green Sofa)', c1902, it provides an entrancing essay on the elegance of beauty. Our painting of Mrs Bunny bears a resemblance to this portrait, more informal, with all the engaging feeling of a study captured in the moment, as seen in the look in the eyes, the slightest query. Bunny presented all those features that so enamoured him to his wife - the slight retrousse nose, lustrous black hair, violet of eyes, and having, as Bunny described, 'the most beautiful mouth I have ever seen!'1 The small size of our portrait gives it that added intimacy to match the moment.

1. Quoted in Reddin, C., Rupert Bunny Himself: His Final Years in Melbourne, self published, Melbourne, 1987, p. 154