John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Mrs. Harry Vane Milbank
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Portrait of Mrs. Harry Vane Milbank 
(nee Alice Sidonie Vandenburg) 
John Singer Sargent -- American painter  
Private collection 
Oil on canvas 
188.6 by 90.8cm (74 1/4 x 35 3/4 in.) 
Signed lower middle left of dress:
To my friend /Albert Belleroche / 
John S. Sargent. 
 Jpg: Art Renewal Center

From Sothebys 
Quoting Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond:

Mrs. Harry Vane Milbank, nee Alice Sidonie Vandenburg (d. 1916), daughter of Desire Baruch of Brussels, was a prominent soical figure on both sides of the Channel. Described by Mark Milbank in his history of the Milbank family (1966) as of 'almost legendary beauty,' she was painted by a number of artists including Carolus-Duran, Sargent and [her son] Albert de Belleroche. Her first marriage to Edmund Charles, Marquis de Belleroche, a gentleman of Huguenot ancestry settled in Swansea, was not happy and they separated. In 1871, she married Harry Vane Milbank, eldest son of Sir Frederick Milbank, Bart, and a celebrated duellist and adventurer." 
(John Singer  Sargent, The Early Portraits, p. 110-111)

* * *

By all likelihood the painting was never a commission, but intended as a gift from Sargent of the mother of his fellow classmate at Carolus-Duran's atelier -- Albert de Belleroche (thumbnail). Kilmurray and Ormond date the work 1883-1884 around the time of Madame X and the complexities of Sargent's life during this time may explain why it never was finished. The arms and lower dress are only roughly sketched out and the painting sat in Sargent's studio for years. When John finally got around to gifting it, he dedicated it "To my friend / Albert Belleroche" a surname Albert wouldn't use until after 1894 when Albert turned 30 (Kilmurray and Ormond pp 97-98)

Supposedly, Sargent was intending to crop the painting under the dedication (the reason it's located so high compared to others) and a practice Sargent apparently did more than a few times (one of the more notable ones being Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose) but he was stopped by the pleadings from Albert. 


Albert de Belleroche, 1923 (acquired directly from the artist) 
Count William de Belleroche (his son), 1944 
Private Collection, England, 1969 

David McKibbin, Sargent's Boston, with an Essay & a Biographical 
Summary, Boston, Massachusetts, 1956, p. 84 
Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, London, 1957, p. 339 
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent, The Early Portraits: Complete Paintings Vol. I, New Haven, Connecticut, 1998, no. 112, pp. 110-111, illustrated in color 


Sold Sothebys; 5/24/2001; Lot 33;  $280,750 


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2003 all rights reserved
Created 5/21/2001
Updated 11/12/2003