The two drawings have come to auction via family descent and will be offered as separate lots at Mallams’ ‘Art & Music’ sale on October 23. The portrait of Thomas Hake is estimated at £10,000-15,000, while the drawing of George Hake is estimated at £20,000-30,000. Both are known works, having been part of a Rossetti exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1973.
As well as a physician, Thomas Hake (1809-1895) was also a published poet. He first met Rossetti in 1869 and the two men became friends and corresponded by post for nine years, exchanging views and advice on the art of poetry.
As Rossetti's health deteriorated, he went to stay at Hake’s home in Roehampton in 1872 where Hake helped him as both a companion and physician. The two drawings date from shortly after this period.
The drawings are slightly unusual for Rosetti in that they depict men rather than women and also mark a shift away from his highly stylised aesthetic subjects. The artist’s brother William Michael Rossetti believed these two sketches to be among the best of the artist’s drawings of male subject, ranking them only behind his pastel of Theodore Watts-Dunton which is now in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.
The drawing of Thomas Hake would later feature as the frontispiece for a 1894 publication of his poems (The Poems of Thomas Gordon Hake, published by Elkin Matthews and John Lane, London).
George Gordon Hake met Rossetti as he was visiting from Oxford and assisted his father in caring for the artist during his stay at Roehampton.
Together with Rossetti and the poet William Bell Scott, Thomas and George Hake then accompanied them to a house in Scotland placed at Rossetti’s disposal to promote his recovery. From there they moved on to a farmhouse at Trowan in Perthshire which is where these drawings were executed.
At the time, George had thought of pursuing a career in journalism but Rossetti persuaded him to instead become his secretary and companion, first at Trowan and from September 1872 at Kelmscott. Their working relationship continued until 1877, when the artist's ferocious temper became too much to bear for George, although remained a helper and a friend in the final years of the artist’s life.
George Gordon Hake went on to have a distinguished career as an archaeologist, working for the British colonial authorities in Cyprus, and many of his finds can still be seen in the British Museum.