UPDATE 2019 required when someone finally contacted me saying that they owned a painting by Isabel! Thanks are due to this person, who wishes to remain anonymous.

UPDATE 2018 required after Alex Kidson helped me out with the vexed question of the four – or possibly five! - Cleopatras.

AUGUST 2017: comments and introduction by Sally Davis.

As at August 2017, no paintings known to be by Isabel are in a public art collection, even hidden away in a basement. I found details in the web pages of some auction houses of a handful of paintings including photographs of two; none of them had titles I recognised from my research elsewhere. They must be in private collections somewhere. I imagine they are in the list below, where they’ve got the titles Isabel gave them. But of course I couldn’t be sure even if I could see them! And Isabel didn’t help her own cause by slightly changing the title of a painting she was going to exhibit for a second time. Isabel mentions some of her paintings and some drawings in her Memorabilia, but not very many – when I started going through the usual art history sources, I was surprised at the number of exhibited paintings I was finding. But in most cases I’ve no idea whether they were sold; and in all cases I don’t know where they are now. Some at least will have been destroyed, including all the unsold and half-finished works Isabel put into store in a warehouse in the summer of 1900.

Details in the list below are, consequently, rather limited. Fortunately, Isabel very often found inspiration for her paintings in literature, mythology and – increasingly – the western Mystery tradition, so in some cases I can at least guess what they were about; though not what they looked like. Isabel’s art training and her views on art and the ‘isms’ of her day are in separate files.

Isabel usually signed and dated her paintings.



Exhibited 1883; Birmingham.

I thought this might depict a character from the 1001 Nights; but he wasn’t in any of the lists of characters that I could find on google.



Exhibited 1892; Liverpool



Full title: Athyrtis Divine Daughter of Sesostris, Showing Herself at the Gate of the Temple.

An oil painting. Exhibited 1880: Royal Albert Hall London with the full title.

It caught the eye of a reviewer from the Building News and Engineering Journal who was probably at the exhibition to focus on the architectural drawings. In The Building News and Engineering Journal volume 38 1880 p360 he described it as a “decorative, classically-rendered figure”.

Google’s first responses were all etymological: athyrtis is a genus of butterflies. However google also came up with three pharoahs whose names go into Greek as Sesostris. At there was an entry for Sesostris III, 12th dynasty, reigned 1836-1818BC. What’s more relevant is where Isabel might have read about such a pharaoh. I came up with two. One from Isabel’s school-days:

Ancient History, Containing the History of the Egyptians, Assyrians... from Rollin and Other Sources. London: Religious Tract Society 1842 p72 in the section History of the Egyptians there’s a reference to an account of Sesostris (probably IIII) by Diodorus, who wrote that Athyrtis acted as priestess for her father and foretold his successful military conquests.

And another published much closer to the date of the painting, though only in the USA:

Israel in Egypt: Egypt’s Place Among the Ancient Monarchies by Edward Lord Clark. New York: New York Methodist Book Concern 1874. On p323 in the section The Exodus, another reference to Diodorus’ account of Sesostris, with Athyrtis described as “versed in divination”, like so many who were learned in the “mysterious arts”. This would have appealed to Isabel.



An oil painting. Exhibited 1892; Birmingham.


This one caused me a lot of confusion until I realised that Isabel painted at least two versions of this classical subject, one in oils and one in pastels.

AURORA CLOTHED WITH THE DAWN also known as THE FLIGHT OF AURORA; and as AURORA AT DAWN in Memorabilia p110 where Isabel confessed that she couldn’t remember what title she’d originally given it! She’d also forgotten that she had ever exhibited it. By p112 she’d remembered it as Aurora Clothed with the Dawn.

Assuming the pictures were identical except in the kind of paints used, on Memorabilia p112 Isabel described them both as “a nude figure, half-veiled, draped by the passing clouds”. A friend told her Aurora looked as though she was sitting in “a nice soft pink and blue arm-chair”. Isabel didn’t have much of a sense of humour and she couldn’t see the funny side of that.

The pastel painting which (Memorabilia p112) she thought of as a “replica”. Exhibited 1889; Liverpool. It was for sale but I think was not sold.

The oil painting. Exhibited 1893; Birmingham as The Flight of Aurora.

The oil version was kept by Isabel until 1900 (Memorabilia p110) when it was destroyed in the warehouse fire. The pastel version she still had with her when she was working on Memorabilia after World War I (Memorabilia p112).

Isabel called the Aurora painting “a picture after my own heart”; perhaps she saw herself, in Aurora.


Pastel. Exhibited 1892 as “an avenging angel” and described as a “watercolour drawing”; Liverpool.

This painting was also reproduced (in black-and-white) in Unknown World volume 1 1894.

Google came back with a snippet including the words ‘the avenging angel’ apparently in H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings Volume VI 1883-85. Compiled by Boris de Zirkoff. Published Los Angeles: Blavatsky Writings Publication Fund 1954. Neither the phrase nor the individual words were in the index and I couldn’t find it in the text. However, perhaps it was in there somewhere. If so, it might indicate the period in which Isabel was working on her painting of that name.



An oil painting. Exhibited 1874; Liverpool.

Isabel’s title is the first line of a two-line quotation attached to the painting, the second line continuing: Those Groups of Lovely Palm Trees Bright.

The quote is from Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance by Thomas Moore 1779-1852. Published 1817.




portrait of Helena Petrovna BLAVATSKY

See MORYA but as far as I know, Isabel never painted Blavatsky’s portrait.



An oil painting. Worked on between 1910 and 1917; possibly later. Intended for exhibition 1926 but not shown.

Just in case there was any doubt, confirmation of Isabel as the painter: on the same piece of paper, torn at the right-hand end, on which the date “1910...” is written in Isabel’s handwriting: “Painted by Isabelle de [Steiger missing from right-hand end]”. To the Lady’s left, Isabel has painted her GD motto ‘Alta peto’.

Its long gestation period is confirmed by two of the pieces of paper Isabel stuck to the back of the painting when she was preparing it to be exhibited. Both are in Isabel’s handwriting. One is torn at the right-hand end of all the lines; it says “1910 to 191”. The other gives a clear date of “1917”.

In Memorabilia pp219-220 Isabel said that she was working on Castles in the Air at the same time as she was beginning Memorabilia; that is (p1) about 1910-1912; and that (p219) she was still working on it in 1925. She thought of it as a reminder of what she could have achieved if she had concentrated on painting and not chosen to “follow many interests”. However, the painting is full of mystical symbolism and Isabel also chose to paint in her GD motto - ‘Alta peto’ - to her left (the viewer’s right) so Castles is also a summing-up of all that she had learned of the western esoteric tradition.

The two titles, only the second of which was used by Isabel in Memorabilia:

1) “The Lady of Illusion, from the Greek Pilgrim’s Progress.” Isabel didn’t use this title when she was writing about the painting in Memorabilia. However, she wrote it on a piece of paper stuck to the back of the frame, with her last address (42 Hawarden Avenue Liverpool) and a price £150. So at some point she was thinking of exhibiting the painting with that title.

I went in search of references to a “Lady of Illusion” and to identify the Greek Pilgrim’s Progress.

At I found Cornell University’s copy of The Greek Pilgrim’s Progress, Generally Known as ‘The Picture’; by “Kebes, a disciple of Sokrates?”. Wisdom of the Ancients “Volume First”. Published Philadelphia: Comparative Literature Press of the Montsavat Press of 1501 North Marshall Street. Privately printed and published London: Leizac and Co of 46 Great Russell Street. This was a translation of a translation, rendered into English c 1910, by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, from a German translation of the original Greek, published by B G Teubner of Leipzig. I could not see the actual words ‘lady of illusion’ in the text but I might have missed it in the Gothic script that was used. The work certainly seems to be about the dangers to those trying to follow the path of hermeticism; most of which are personified in the text as seductive women, the Pilgrim being a man (and thus easily led astray).

2) Castles in the Air, which Isabel wrote on a ‘with care’ label and stuck to the back of the painting; again with the price of £150 and her Hawarden Avenue address., which she moved to around 1922 The label was signed off on behalf of Jackson and Sons, picture framers, of Liverpool.

Being an Ibsen fan I immediately associated ‘castles in the air’ with a conversation from The Master Builder. However, Ben Fernee of Caduceus Books suggested in an email of 29 May 2017 that the phrase has a much longer history in the occult, including an appearance in a book Ben thinks Isabel would certainly have known about: Dr. Herbert Silberer’s Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism, which Ben describes (I haven’t read it, of course!) as being “about alchemical symbolism”.

Silberer’s book was published in German in 1914: Probleme der Mystik und ihrer Symbolik. Isabel could have read it in the original language, of course, but an English translation by Smith Ely Jelliffe was published as Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism in New York: Moffat Yard and Co and London: Kegan Paul in 1917. According to Silberer’s wikipedia page, the work takes as its starting point the Rosicrucian text known as the Parabola Allegory. Silberer was a psychoanalyist, and he was arguing in the book that Freudian psychoanalysis can only go so far in interpreting dreams and understanding creativity. Though Freud and his followers rejected that idea, it was taken up later by Jung; and Isabel would have agreed with it.


Nothing is known about what happened to Castles in the Air in the decades after Isabel sent it to the R Jackson and Sons to be framed. As it was not in the Walker Art Gallery’s autumn exhibition of 1926 it was probably still in Isabel’s house when she died.

Castles finally reappeared in 1997 when it was sold at Bonhams and bought by a collector in South London. Ben Fernee sold it on in 2005 to an art lover in Wiltshire. By this time the painting was in a bad state of repair, and the 2005 buyer paid for a great deal of conservation work to be done on it so many thanks to him. He, however, decided to part with Castles early in 2017; and I bought it from him in May 2017, with Ben Fernee acting as agent so thanks to Ben as well.

Sources for the provenance:

Sale in 1997: snippet including a pre-sale list at

Its buyer in 1997: email from Ben Fernee 12 May 2017 giving the buyer’s name, and the buyer’s recollection of buying it at auction though he couldn’t remember quite when.

Its buyer in 2005 and the conservation work: documents including a CD of conservation procedures, passed to the current owner May 2017.

Its buyer in 2017: Ben Fernee’s invoice stamped ‘paid’ May 2017.

Castles in the Air is still in its original frame – oak, ornately carved and with some of the gilding still in place. The work was done for Isabel by R Jackson and Sons. The firm still exists, though it has moved down the road from 3 Slater Street (where it the firm was founded in 1866) to 20 Slater Street Liverpool 1. Its website is at


portrait of CHRISTIAN DAVID GINSBURG see Ginsburg




Exhibited 1888; Liverpool.



An oil painting. Exhibited 1893; Birmingham.


the CLEOPATRA paintings, which have been a real headache!

Firstly, independent evidence that there were FOUR of them: Artist and Journal of Home Culture volume 2 1881 p143: a short report which seems to be referring to the current exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, saying that Isabel had “just sold the last of four Cleopatra pictures”. It also mentioned two other paintings with classical subjects that Isabel was working on; but didn’t mention the titles so I’ve no idea which they were.


1879; Royal Society of British Artists London.


1879; Liverpool and with a black-and-white sketch on p37 of George R Halkett’s Notes to the Walker Art Gallery Exhibition Liverpool – 1879. Even this sketch shows how much Isabel was influenced by the style of Alma Tadema at this time.


1879; Royal Albert Hall London.

Its full title was used in a review of the RAH exhibition in Bazaar Exchange and Mart and Journal of the Household volumes 20-21 1879 p81 in which the reporter recommended readers to look out for it especially. Building News and Engineering Journal volume 38 1880 p360 also printed the full title in its RAH exhibition review.

Exhibited as CLEOPATRA. I’m wondering if Isabel sent this one with a full title; but the Gallery left most of it out when preparing the catalogue. 1880; Manchester.

Referred to by Isabel as CLEOPATRA BEFORE THE BATTLE OF ACTIUM on Memorabilia p278 where she says it was exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery and bought in 1880 by her great friends William and Fanny Crosfield; for its catalogue price of £70. I think Isabel’s got herself mixed up here, writing so long after the event. If she meant that the Crosfields bought the painting she showed at the Walker Art Gallery in 1879, that’s definitely Cleopatra Receiving an Unfavourable Oracle... In due course it was inherited by their daughter Dora and was still on display in the Crosfields’ house when Isabel was finishing Memorabilia after World War I. However, Dora died unmarried in 1926 and I don’t know what happened to this Cleopatra afterwards. The Crosfields also bought Isabel’s The Lorelei Maiden…

On p58 of Memorabilia Isabel mentions a painting called Cleopatra after the Battle of Actium – making five Cleopatras in all! I’m sure this was just a slip-up by Isabel that her editors, if she had any, didn’t notice: the other details in the same paragraph make it clear she means CLEOPATRA BEFORE THE BATTLE OF ACTIUM.

Mentions of one or the other of the four, just as ‘Cleopatra’.

- Memorabilia p58, a painting referred to by Isabel only as ‘Cleopatra’ and – she recalls – exhibited probably in 1879. Which is fine except that she exhibited two that year. This is the source for Isabel’s early admiration for the style of Alma-Tadema and Cleopatra Receiving an Unfavourable Oracle… does show exactly what she meant by that.

- The Academy volume 18 1880 number 437 issue of 18 September 1880 p209 which included Isabel’s painting catalogued as ‘Cleopatra’ in its list of “notable pictures” currently on view at the exhibition at the Royal Manchester Institution. Also in the list were G F Watts’ Psyche; Burne-Jones’ The Music Lesson; and R Spencer Stanhope’s The Waters of Lethe; so the ‘Cleopatra’ - whichever one it was - was in good company.

- The Architect volume 23 1880: p19. Having seen the reference in a Google snippet I ordered the magazine at the British Library. The page-numbering was completely impenetrable: all I know is that p19 did not have anything about a work by Isabel or indeed anything about an art exhibition. The magazine’s full title is: The Architect: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Art, Civil Engineering and Building. Volume 23 covered January-June 1880 so I think the reference – wherever it actually was in the book – was to the ‘Cleopatra’ shown at Manchester.

I think, for a brief period, the Cleopatra paintings made Isabel almost-famous. I found a reference to them inspiring some poetry: Public Opinion volumes 41-42 1882 p490 mentions poems written after the writer had been (quoting the magazine) “viewing pictures of...Cleopatra”. Public Opinion’s reporter assumes that the poet means “Madame de Steiger’s celebrated pictures”.

The poet in question was Henry George Hellon, about whom I haven’t found out much: he isn’t in ODNB or DNB, Who Was Who or Boase; and there’s no wikipedia page. He does appear in the two main reference works I use when chasing Victorian poets:

Mid-Victorian Poetry 1880-1899: An Annotated Biobibliography compiled by Catherine W Reilly. London and N ew York: Mansell 2000 p216 has one volume by Henry George Hellon: Lord Harrie and Leila: or, a Romance of the Isle of Wight, and Other Poems. London: Provost and Co 1869.

Late Victorian Poetry 1880-1899: An Annotated Biobibliography compiled by Catherine W Reilly. London and New York: Mansell 1994 p219 another one volume by Henry George Hellon, now listed as a member of the Authors’ Club. Daphnis: A Sicilian Pastoral, and Other Poems. London: Kegan Paul Trench and Co 1881.

Daphnis: A Sicilian Pastoral, and Other Poems. London: Kegan Paul Trench and Co 1881. The designs on the front and back cover are Egyptian/esoteric. There are two long poems, the second of which is called The Seer: A Prophetic Poem (pp25-41) which would have interested Isabel if she had known about it. Most of the other poems are sonnets, including on p76: Sonnet on Viewing a Picture of Cleopatra:

In Isis’ temple sits the mighty Queen,

Draped in a gown of gossamer and gold,

Through which her lovely form, fair to behold,

Peers, sweet as peers the moon through silver sheen

When misty vapours veil the fairy scene!

Yet o’er her brow some mystery seems to fold,

And in her eyes her future fate foretold;

With anger burning, passionate her mien!

Her dreams of death, of Antony, and all

The splendour of the past! her glory gone,

And throne a wreck, where monarch feigned to fall;

Her chiefs and army lost, her power undone!

Seized with despair, she deigns not God to call,

But, woe-worn, seeks a death her legions shun!

Hellon must have seen one of the two ‘priestess of Isis’ Cleopatras.



Oil painting. Exhibited 1874; Liverpool.



Exhibited 1878; Society of Women Artists London.

Despite sounding like a genre picture of a Spanish girl, possibly playing a tambourine, this is actually a one of Isabel’s many paintings with a literary source; and also one of her paintings featuring the Mysteries. In Memorabilia Isabel mentions the novel of that name by George Sand several times as one of her favourites when she was a girl in Liverpool. On p11 she describes its male protagonist Albert of Rudolstadt as one of the hero-figures of her adolescence. On p34 she wonders how she managed to get a copy of a novel by an author whose works were considered immoral. And on pp133-134 she talks of her excitement at the novel’s depiction of a “mysterious Underground Grotto”; and the “powerful secret order”, known only by the initials “L.P.D.”, of which Albert of Rudolstadt was the head. “It was the mystery that enthralled me”, Isabel commented in Memorabilia but perhaps the novel also made Isabel receptive to the idea that secret organisations might exist in real life.


Wikipedia on George Sand’s Consuelo: A Romance of Venice, whose popularity had declined by the late 19th century. It first appeared in 1842-43, serialised in La Revue Indépendante. The British Library catalogue has the first English translation, published in 1847 as volumes 4 and 5 in the Parlour Library series. I think this must be the edition Isabel read; on Memorabilia p134 she mentioned that she was already very familiar with its plot by the time she was 14 – around 1850.



Exhibited 1892; Liverpool.

As with the Cleopatras so too with the dancing girls, there are rather too many of them!!



Exhibited 1881; Royal Society of British Artists London.

Probably exhibited again later in 1881 as THE EASTERN DANCING GIRL; Liverpool.

It’s possible that this is the painting sold in 1980 as Egyptian Slave Girl, which had the date “1881” on it, in Isabel’s handwriting.


Painting sold in 1985 with the title DANCING GIRL RESTING

At is the Blouin Art Sales Index. In the index are details of a painting by Isabel sold with that title as lot 50 at Christie’s South Kensington in July 1905. There was no photograph of the painting in question; but these details were there: oil on canvas; 53cm high by 33cm wide.

I suppose it’s quite likely that ‘dancing girl resting’ is the painting or paintings I’ve listed immediately above: Isabel’s Dancing Girl and/or Eastern Dancing Girl exhibited 1881. Without knowing how big the 1881 painting or paintings were, I can’t be sure.

See also the painting or paintings sold as Dancing Queen sold in 1997 and Resting Grecian Girl Dancer in 1988 which might be the same one.


Painting sold in 1997 as DANCING QUEEN making it sound like something by Abba and I’m also sure queens didn’t dance in Isabel’s imagination, they sat on a throne and watched.

It’s definitely not Isabel’s ‘dancing girl’ of 1881. Its details were also at, the Blouin Art Sales Index though again without a photograph: signed on the back by Isabel and dated by her 1888; oil on panel; 60cm high by 33cm wide. In 1997 it was lot 286 in a sale at Christie’s South Kensington. I don’t feel comfortable equating it with any other painting by Isabel that I know of, despite knowing the original exhibition date.



Exhibited twice in 1879: Society of Women Artists London, and Liverpool.



see Hagar in the Desert. I’m fairly sure this is the same painting as Hagar in the Desert. I’m certainly going to treat is as such so see below for further information.



Exhibited 1881; Liverpool.

This was probably its second showing. I think it is the same painting as the one Isabel exhibited as THE DANCING GIRL at the Royal Society of British Artists London.


Painting sold in 1980 as EGYPTIAN SLAVE GIRL

This was another item I discovered at, the Blouin Art Sales Index: signed by Isabel; dated 1881; oil on panel; 25cm high by 40 cm wide. Again, there was no photograph of it. It was sold as lot 3013 at Sloan’s Auctioneers North Bethesda, Maryland.

The date of 1881 makes it possible that this was Isabel’s ‘Dancing girl’ and/or ‘Eastern Dancing Girl’ (see above) but without knowing the dimensions of that painting or paintings I can’t be sure.



Exhibited 1884; Liverpool.



An oil painting.

Exhibited twice with that title: 1883 in Liverpool; 1885 at the Royal Hibernian Dublin.

Probably exhibited 1885 as The Sorceress; Nineteenth Century Art Society London. Of course, The Sorceress may be a completely different picture; but I think not.

Although I haven’t seen The Enchantress, it’s clear even from its title that Isabel had chosen to paint a subject much liked by her contemporaries. Those by Waterhouse and Sandys are particularly well-known. As The Enchantress, Isabel’s painting was coveted by GD member Frederick Leigh Gardner. In a letter to him written in November 1897, Isabel mentions Gardner’s wish to own The Enchantress one day. The way she phrases it, it sounds as though the painting had been bought, probably at its showing as The Sorceress.

Source: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73 - letters to Frederick Leigh Gardner by various GD members. Letter from Isabel de Steiger dated 11 November [1897].

As The Sorceress it received a half-a-sentence from a reviewer in the Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art published by J W Parker and Son. Volume 60 1885 p612 described The Sorceress thus. While admitting that the painting had “merit”, the reviewer did not like Isabel’s brushwork, saying, “the hard and crude, and the detail full of ill-distributed accents”.



An oil painting. Exhibited 1884; Manchester.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1875; Liverpool.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1887; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



Watercolour drawing.

Exhibited 1884; Birmingham.



Exhibited 1883; Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh.

It was exhibited as a character from the 1001 Nights. I couldn’t find it listed when I checked with google but that was probably because of the way Isabel spelled it.



See AURORA above.



Exhibited 1887 with this title; Society of Women Artists London.

Exhibited 1889 with the shortened title THE FIRST BLUSH OF SPRING CAPRI; Liverpool.



Variously described as a pastel or a watercolour.

Exhibited 1891 as pastel; Liverpool.

Exhibited 1892 as watercolour; Birmingham.

Exhibited 1894; Royal Hibernian Dublin.


Portrait of CHRISTIAN DAVID GINSBURG, not the ideal sitter.

Memorabilia p169: this was a charcoal drawing and Isabel was working on it in mid-1883. I think it was of his head and perhaps his shoulders only because Isabel mentions how difficult she found both the head – its “unclassical” form - and the fact that Ginsburg would keep talking and not keep his face still. She doesn’t say what happened to the drawing but I would suppose it was one of the many that she did for her friends and gave to them as gifts. I haven’t found any evidence that it was exhibited.

See my life-by-dates around mid-1883 for more information on Ginsburg, a Jewish convert to Christianity who was employed as a translator of Hebrew texts.



An oil painting. Exhibited 1884: Institute of Painters in Oil Colours London.

This might be the same painting as the Slave Queen Zumurrud; probably not, but see separate entry.

Memorabilia p131 Isabel writes that she sold a painting after it had been shown at what she calls the “Royal Institute”. I think she means what had originally been the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, which had taken the name it’s still known by – the Royal Institute of Oil Painters – in 1909. Isabel doesn’t name the painting, but it must be Greek Captive…, the only one she exhibited at this particular venue.


HAGAR IN THE DESERT and assuming THE DISMISSAL OF HAGAR is the same painting.

An oil painting.

Exhibited 1875 as Hagar in the Desert; Liverpool

If they are not two paintings, exhibited 1880 as The Dismissal of Hagar: Royal Albert Hall London.

Isabel was setting herself up against some impressive opposition in taking on Hagar. There is, for example, a ‘Hagar in the Desert’ by Rubens, now in Dulwich Picture Gallery, and there are other paintings with slight variations on Rubens’ phrase by other great painters.

And similarly with ‘The Dismissal of Hagar’ which seems to be the more popular title. See

// examples by Tiepolo, Claude Lorraine, Pietro da Cortina, Gabriel Metsu, and earlier ones from Renaissance Northern Europe where the subject was particularly in vogue.

Isabel does not mention this painting/these paintings in Memorabilia. Perhaps she had forgotten it or them. However, I know of only one other painting by Isabel on a biblical theme, and I think she may have realised that with Hagar she had bitten off more than she could chew in terms of ‘great’ art portrayed in the ‘great’ way.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1887; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



A study in charcoal and red chalk.

Exhibited 1887; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.

Was this a portrait? Maybe not. There are two literary characters it could be: Shakespeare’s Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing; or Dante’s Beatrice from The Divine Comedy, his guide to the Purgatorio and the Paradiso. If it was a portrait, I haven’t been able to identify the sitter. I don’t know of a Beatrice in Isabel’s family or amongst her friends.

September 2017: I think that the painting sold as ?Portrait of Madame Blavatska might actually be this one.



I think this was the same painting exhibited twice in the same year, once with a longer title, once with the shorter one. If that’s correct, it was an oil painting.

Exhibited 1887 as L’Amour de la Nuit - La Lune - Sur La Terrasse de l’Hotel: Impression du Voyage; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.

Exhibited 1887; Liverpool.



I think this was almost certainly an oil painting, though I can’t prove it. Biblical subjects were ‘great’ art and ‘great’ art required oils.

As John the Baptist was never exhibited, I can only date it approximately. On Memorabilia pp177-178 Isabel writes that she was working on the painting in her Holland Park Road studio. Exhibition catalogues list her at that address in 1882, 1883 and the early part of 1884; but she had moved away by autumn 1884.

Memorabilia p177 says that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky visited her while she was working on John the Baptist and pointed out a doctrinal error in it: she reminded Isabel that the Baptist was a Nazar, so he should have long hair. Isabel had painted him with short hair but after Blavatsky left, she repainted the hair, longer. She describes the painting as “a life-size male head”. Her model for it was an Italian man who was very pleased with the lunch of macaroni Isabel gave him while he was working for her. Obviously homesick, he asked her where you could buy macaroni in London.

On Memorabilia p177 Isabel says that she gave the painting to the Rev Elcum, vicar of St Agnes, Ullet Road Liverpool. The church was consecrated in 1885; Rev Charles Cunningham Elcum was its first incumbent and remained in charge until his retirement in August 1927. In fact it’s likely that Isabel didn’t even know Rev Elcum until she moved back to Liverpool in 1891; so I’d say the painting was being worked on in the mid-1890s. I also assume that Isabel painted it for him, and that he may even have commissioned it from her.

A warning about Memorabilia p177: Isabel spelled the Rev’s name wrong, as ElcRum, which led

me on a wild goose chase when I set out to identify him.

Information on Rev C C Elcum at website of St Agnes and St Pancras Liverpool. He’s buried in Toxteth Park cemetery, see . His tombstone gives the dates he was in-post at St Agnes. Census and other information indicates that he never married and had no close relations; so where Isabel’s John the Baptist went after his death is anyone’s guess.



See Impression du Voyage





Exhibited 1894; Royal Hibernian Dublin.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1887; Liverpool, with a very long quotation from a work purporting to be by Hermes Trismegistus: “Persephone, wilfully straying from the Mansions of Heaven, falls under the power of the Hadean God, in other words Persephone typifying the Soul sinks into the profound depths of a material nature”.

A painting inspired by the occult work of Isabel’s close friend Anna Bonus Kingsford.

At you can read the full text of The Hermetic Works of the Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus translated and with introduction and notes by Dr Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, authors of The Perfect Way. 1885 Bath: Bath Occult Reprint Series, run by Robert H Fryar who also does an introduction to the book.



Exhibited 1886; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



Exhibited 1883; Liverpool.

Almost certainly exhibited a second time, this time lent by its owner, Isabel’s friend William Crosfield. 1895: Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh. William and Fanny Crosfield had probably bought the painting in 1883. It had a longer title this time: The Lorelei Maiden Singing to the Fishermen Below.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1886; Liverpool.

This is one of Isabel’s paintings inspired by literature. At you can read Sir Edwin Arnold’s The Lost Pleiad: A Story of the Stars. The poem was included in the 1856 anthology Griselda and Other Poems published by Bogue. The Economist 1856 p538 issue of 17 May 1856 had a review of it.

Googling this painting produced more contemporary references than any other painting by Isabel: that is, more than what was usually none at all!

Via genesreunited to Liverpool Mercury 1 November 1886 where it was mentioned in the Art Notes col.umn And also via genesreunited to Liverpool Mercury 18 November 1886 which had comments on the Lost Pleiad and on the other painting Isabel showed at the Walker that year: the Valkyrie Maidens. The reviewer’s comment on the Lost Pleiad was: “very fanciful in design”. Both issues of the paper referred to Isabel by name. NB though you’ll need to be careful on the web: Liverpool Mercury of 10 October 1887 referred to another painting called The Lost Pleiad, by William Padgett; catalogue number 266 at the Walker Art Gallery that year.

Via google to The Pall Mall Budget which was a weekly selection of articles previously in the Pall Mall Gazette. PMB volume 33 p83 in an article on the Walker Art Gallery’s autumn exhibition: “Miss (sic) Isabel de Steiger’s Lost Pleiad (140) is noticeable as the only attempt in the direction of imaginative art in the gallery”.


portrait of MABEL COLLINS

A painting in pastel.

Exhibited ?1888; Grosvenor Gallery (Memorabilia p159) although I haven’t been able to confirm that in the correct exhibition catalogue.

Memorabilia p247-51 both Isabel and Mabel Collins (Mrs Keningale Cook) were friends of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the late 1880s/early 1890s. Early volumes of the Theosophical Society journal Lucifer were edited by Mabel who also wrote articles for it.

The website has a short biography of Mabel Collins: The Many Lives of Mabel Collins, by Kim Farnell. Here I’ll just say that Mabel was born Minna Mabel Collins in 1851 and died in March 1927. She published over 40 full-length works and many articles and was for a time the fashion correspondent of the magazine The World. She married the stockbroker Keningale Robert Cook in 1871 but the two were separated by the time of his death in 1886. Her husband introduced her to spiritualism and in the late 1870s she was known as a spiritualist medium; however, after a few years she rejected spiritualism for theosophy.

Mabel made an important contribution to the acceptance of theosophy in the West with her book Light on the Path:

Light on the Path. A Treatise… Written down by MC, Fellow of the TS. The volume also contained Mabel’s essay on Karma. Madras: Scottish Press 1885. Perhaps easier to obtain: London: George Redway 1888.


Painting by Isabel sold 2001/2002 as ?MADAME BLAVATSKA

Found with that title at, the Blouin Art Sales Index . If so, it has the wrong title: the details on the Index say that it was for sale as a portrait of Madame Blavatska and I haven’t found any evidence that Isabel ever painted Blavatsky. As ?Madame Blavatska it was lot 242 in a sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at Beaussant et Lefèvre Paris in 2001. Lot 242 was signed by Isabel; dated by Isabel 1887; oil on canvas; 53cm high by 43cm wide.

There are reproductions of the painting sold as Madame Blavatska at; and on Pinterest; as well as where the dimensions are slightly different and it’s only presumed to be a portrait of Blavatsky. This website gave the asking price – 1220 euros.

The painting probably remained unsold in 2001. The same details as at are also at where Isabel is described as German and the painting is described as sold by Beaussant-Lefèvre on 19 June 2002.

None of the websites give any indication as to who bought the Madame Blavatska painting in 2002; nor where it is now.

The painting is dated 1887. If Isabel exhibited it that year, the two most likely candidates for its correct title are: Harmonia; and Head of Beatrice. See my life-by-dates for 1885-88 for more on why they seem the most promising identifications.



Exhibited 1877; Royal Hibernian Dublin.

Almost certainly exhibited a second time in 1877; Liverpool. With the alternative title Mansours’ Tent. The one shown at Liverpool was an oil painting.



Almost certainly an oil painting though I didn’t find definitive evidence of that. Mariamne was perhaps the most sinister subject Isabel ever painted: she was the wife of Herod, mother of Salome.

Exhibited 1881; Liverpool and 1882: Royal Academy.

On Memorabilia p131 (where it’s understandably but wrongly given as ‘MariaNne’) Isabel said this was the only work she ever got accepted for exhibition at the RA; probably because RA thought she was someone else - she was in the catalogue as “Miss F Steeger”. Mariamne was sold, probably from its showing at the RA: on Memorabilia p130: Isabel named the buyer as Warren de la Rue.

See wikipedia for more on Warren de la Rue, son of Thomas, the founder of the bank-note printing firm and his successor as the firm’s manager. Until obliged to give it up due to pressure of work, he was a keen amateur astronomer and chemist, a pioneer of astronomical photography. FRAS, FRS, sometime president of the Chemical Society. Légion d’Honneur. And he has a lunar crater named for him.

At brief mention of him as they have some of his astronomical photographs in their collection.



See Romola TYNTE



Exhibited 1882; Royal Hibernian Dublin.


portrait of Mme Blavatsky’s mahatma MORYA

Not exhibited to my knowledge. Commissioned by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky 1884. Sent to Adyar, India, by Isabel 1884 and not heard of since.

Isabel definitely did do such a painting. Blavatsky commissioned it during her visit to England in 1884; together with two more such, one of Morya and one of Koot Hoomi, both of which were painted during June and July 1884 by Hermann Schmiechen. The Schmiechen paintings were sent to Adyar in October 1884 and were on display there for many years. It’s not clear what happened to the Morya commissioned from Isabel.

On Memorabilia pp177-179, Isabel says that Colonel Olcott called at her studio to give her a photograph of a black-and-white chalk drawing Blavatsky had done of Morya; which Isabel was to use as the basis for her painting. Isabel added, from memory, an oriental head like those of the Bedouins she had seen in Egypt. When it was finished, she took it round to show Colonel Olcott, who was suitably impressed. She then sent the painting to Adyar; presumably on Blavatsky’s instructions. She never heard anything more about it. She kept the photograph of Blavatsky’s drawing. It survived the fire of 1900 and eventually she gave it to Joseph Bibby, a member of the Theosophical Society. I haven’t found much information on Joseph Bibby but one web page I came across said that he went to Adyar eventually. I’m wondering if Isabel knew he was going, and hoped he would look for her version of Morya there.

Other sources for the commissions of 1884:

Colonel Olcott’s diary entry for15 June 1884, used as source at in an article The Portraits of the Masters Part I, by Daniel Caldwell; uploaded 15 September 2006. Olcott wrote that Isabel had brought round to show him a “remarkable portrait of Mahatma M...” .

The two commissions painted by Schmiechen:

A very basic wiki on Hermann Schmiechen confirms that he painted both Koot Hoomi; and Morya.

Seen at, Hermann Schmiechen’s dates: born Neumark July 1885; died Berlin 1925.

Reader’s Guide to the Mahatma letters to A P Sinnett editors George E Linton and Virginia Hanson. Published Adyar Chennai India: Theosophical Publishing House 1972: 243-44: confirming the date of the commissions from Schmiechen; that there were two; exactly when he painted them; and what had happened to the finished paintings. There was no mention in this account of the Morya painting done by Isabel.



Exhibited 1884; Liverpool.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1886; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1887; Nineteenth Century Art Society.

The sketches for this could have been done by Isabel during a visit to her sister Rosamond (sometimes spelle Rosamund). In 1862 Rosamond married solicitor Edmund Charles Burton. They lived in Daventry.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1875; Liverpool.



This is one of very few works Isabel mentions painting after the fire of 1900. On Memorabilia pp290-91 she mentions a group of “imaginative pictures” that she did after the fire. Paradise and the Peri is the only one of the group that she names. She probably singled it out because its buyer was well-known, at least in Liverpool - Mr Style, solicitor and “positivist”. Isabel said that he bought it around the time he and his wife Jane May moved into 69 Hope Street; census information shows they were living there in April 1901, so Isabel must have got back to work on her art – even if in only a small way – very soon after the disaster.

A section of Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh relates the successful attempt of the Peri to get back into Paradise after it had been expelled. See that section of the poem at

Paradise and the Peri’s buyer was Sydney Style, a leader – if not the leader – of the positivist group in Liverpool. At is the open access journal Architectural Histories. Volume 3(1) article 15, published 2015: On the Material and Immaterial Architecture of Organised Positivism in Britain, by Matthew Wilson, gives some information on the arrival of Comte’s Positivism in England, and the designs of the churches of humanity positivists wanted to build. There was a positivist group in Liverpool by 1883, meeting in Faulkland Street though not in a purpose-built building. A Church of Humanity for Liverpool was consecrated in 1913 and is now the St Pius X church.

At a posting from May 2011 says that in the years before their Church of Humanity was built, the Liverpool positivists met at 69 Hope Street.

Sydney and Jane May Style had no biological children of their own but adopted several, some but not all of whom took their surname. I don’t know what happened to Paradise and the Peri after Sydney and Jane May died.


portrait of MRS PATTERSON

Exhibited 1878; Society of Lady Artists London. It was probably not for sale but my reference work for the SWA didn’t specifically say so.

Exhibited again 1879; Royal Albert Hall London where it definitely wasn’t for sale.

I’m not certain who Mrs Patterson was but I did find two possible candidates who may actually be the same woman:

Mr and Mrs Patterson: see The Letters of H P Blavatsky to A P Sinnett etc, editor A T Barker, online at Letter number 1 was written by Blavatsky in Bombay; there’s no date on it but Blavatsky was in Bombay in 1879. She mentions a Mrs and Mr Patterson, friends of the Sinnetts; presumably a couple then living in India. There’s no other reference to the couple in the letters.

An American Mrs S E Patterson:

In Mme Blavatsky Revisited by Joseph Howard Tyson. New York, Lincoln, Shanghai: iUniverse 2006. Seen via google and I couldn’t find a page number but it contained a reference to a spiritualist medium “Mrs S E Patterson”. A Dr Furness attended a seance with her as medium. He admired the theatrical effects used, including a small organ; but was less impressed when the medium channelled two spirits, one German and one Italian, neither of which could speak their supposed native language.

Further investigation of this Mrs Patterson led to wikipedia’s page on the Seybert Commission. A Mr Seybert left money to University of Pennsylvania to be used to investigate the claims of spiritualism. The University set up the commission, which was taking evidence between 1884 and 1887, with a final Report published in 1887. Mrs S E Patterson was one of the first mediums the Commission investigated. She was known as medium who used writing on a slate. She couldn’t perform at all when members of the Commission were watching her. It could have been worse for her, though - Commission members caught plenty of other mediums being actively fraudulent during seances.



A painting in pastels.

Exhibited probably late 1888/early 1889: definitely the Grosvenor Gallery London but there was a snag about the identification.

On Memorabilia pp157-59 Isabel writes about the ‘at homes’ held by Patience and A P Sinnett during the 1880s; she was a regular guest at them. At some point in the 1880s, she did a full-length portrait of Patience in pastels, which she gave to Patience after it had been exhibited. Isabel says it was one of four paintings shown at the same exhibition at the Grosvenor Galleries; where it was not as well hung as she would have liked.

There are two problems with this account of Mrs Sinnett’s portrait. Firstly, though I haven’t been able to find one of the relevant exhibition catalogues, it looks as though the four pastels were not exhibited all together, as Isabel remembered, but in two separate exhibitions that followed each other quickly around Christmas 1888/New Year 1889. Secondly, in the catalogue I did find, of the second of the two, a portrait by Isabel was certainly shown, but without the name of the sitter; so it could have been Isabel’s portrait of Mabel Collins.


Persephone - see A LEGEND OF THE SOUL



A painting in pastels

Exhibited Grosvenor Gallery London; either late 1888 or early 1889 and I’m not certain whether or not it had its full title.

Exhibited 1890 with the full title; Liverpool

See portrait of Patience Sinnett, above: Phaedra was another of the four pastels Isabel got confused about on Memorabilia p159. Unlike Patience’s portrait, Phaedra had been hung to advantage at the exhibition.

Probably while she was working on Phaedra, Isabel was also preparing to give a talk at the London Spiritualist Alliance. The talk was covered in Light, the journal of the British National Association of Spiritualists: volume 9 1889 p610 has a report on a recent meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance, where Isabel had spoken on Spiritualism Amongst the Poets, mentioning Phaedra by name.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1874; Liverpool. With a quote from Lalla Rookh:

The ruined shrines and towers that seem

The relics of a splendid dream.

Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance first published 1817 by Thomas Moore (1779-1852).

For the Greco-Egyptian temple complex at Philae, see wikipedia.

Isabel had probably visited Philae, and sketched there, while she and her husband were living in Alexandria in the late 1860s/early 1870s.



Exhibited 1885; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.

Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art published by J W Parker and Son. Volume 60 1885 p612. A review of the current exhibition at the Nineteenth Century Art Society mentioned both the paintings Isabel was showing: The Sorceress; and something the report simply referred to as ‘portrait’. The exhibition catalogue I looked at was no more helpful. It’s most likely that the portrait was one shown elsewhere as well, or mentioned by Isabel in Memorabilia; and thus in this list of works. But there’s a chance it’s a completely different portrait; if it is, I don’t know who the sitter might have been.



This painting was said at its sale to be by Isabel, but the information I found didn’t say that the painting was signed by Isabel, when she usually did sign her works. The details were at, the Blouin Art Sales Index. The painting was sold with this title as lot 125 in a sale at Bonhams in 1992: no date either; oil on canvas; 53cm high by 38cm wide. Again, I haven’t found a picture on the web of this painting and I don’t know where it is now.


PRINCESS SCHEHERAZADE also exhibited as PRINCESS SCHEHEREZADA , presumably a type-setting error

An oil painting.

Exhibited 1880; Liverpool; and again 1892; Manchester.

Another of Isabel’s paintings with literary origins.



An oil painting.

This was another of the paintings by Isabel that I found at, the Blouin Art Sales Index. It was sold with that title as lot 796 in a sale at Waddington’s of Toronto in November 1988; signed by Isabel but with no date; oil on panel; 22cm high by 40cm wide. As usual with these works sold in recent years at auction houses, I couldn’t find a picture of the painting on the web; and also as usual, I don’t know where it is now. I think it might be the same painting as the one sold as ‘dancing girl resting’ in 1985 and as I’ve said when discussing the other ‘dancing...’ paintings (see ‘d’ above), any one or more of them might be in this list under the name Isabel originally bestowed on them.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1925; Liverpool. Probably the last work Isabel ever showed.



A charcoal drawing.

Exhibited 1887; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.


Portrait of ROMOLA TYNTE which was the professional name of Mary Magill Tynte Potter.

Exhibited 1885 as ‘Portrait of Miss Mary Tynte Potter”; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.

Exhibited 1887; Royal Hibernian Dublin.

The painting was not for sale on either occasion and was certainly given by Isabel to Mary Potter; possibly commissioned by her.

Mary Tynte Potter burst on the social scene as Romola Tynte, doing recitings and short dramatic scenes at private soirées and – later – public concerts. Her family was Irish and she was related to

Jane, Lady Wilde. Oscar Wilde helped Romola launch herself when she went to the USA and I think she might have begun her public career at Lady Wilde’s famous afternoons. Neither Mary Potter nor Romola Tynte is mentioned in Memorabilia but Lady Wilde’s afternoons were the most likely place for Isabel to have met her.

Some information on Mary Potter/Romola Tynte and her rather brief career in recitation:

At freepages.genealogy.rootsweb, see Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life 1866-1916 by Rev Canon W Odom. In Chapter VI, the well-known churchmen that Odom knew personally include Mary’s father, Rev S G Potter, vicar of St Luke’s Hollis Croft, well-known in the city for his willingness to involve himself in theological debate. Rev Potter was an Orangeman whose parish was mostly occupied by Roman Catholicss. He died 1904 in South Devon.

At the pamphlet: Church and State: Controversy Between Rev S G Potter and...”Pastor Gordon”. In 14 Letters. 1874 in London, Manchester and Sheffield. Pastor Gordon is John Henry Gordon.

Mary’s parents:, has transcripts of Cookstown marriage announcements taken from local parish registers; Strabane Morning Post; Londonderry Sentinel; Londonderry Standard. In the list published in one of the papers 11 October 1845: on 1st inst [1 Oct 1845] at Derryloran Chuch Cookstown, Rev Samuel George Potter of Cushenden co Antrim to Elizabeth daughter of Samuel Rankin Magill Esq JP of Cookstown. Rev Potter was the eldest son of Samuel Potter of Springfield county Donegal.

As the reciter Romola Tynte:

Dublin Daily Express 12 May 1887: Romola Tynte’s farewell recital in Dublin had been attended by Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar.

A [Gerard Manley] Hopkins Chronology by John McDermott. London: Macmillan 1997 p113 and we’re in April 1887: on 25th [April 1887] Hopkins went to Mrs More Madden’s house to see Romola Tynte recite. An editor’s footnote says that as well as her recitations, Romola also worked as an elocutionist. On the evening Hopkins heard her, she was wearing a dress designed for her by Oscar Wilde. On 27th [April 1887] Hopkins went to the Antient Concert Rooms to see Romola’s farewell recital. On 1 May [1887] Hopkins told a contact that Romola was “a beautiful Sappho”.

At ebay and on google there was a picture of Romola Tynte, a profile from front page of The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News volume 39 number 770 issue of 25 August 1888. I couldn’t see who the artist was - if a name was mentioned - but it’s more likely to be one of the male artists who painted Romola Tynte than the portrait by Isabel.

For Jane, Lady Wilde see wikipedia on her husband and younger son; and wiki on Jane herself: Jane Francesca Agnes Elgee born December 1821 daughter of Charles Elgee 1783-1824, a solicitor in Wexford, and his wife Sarah née Kingsbury.

After establishing herself on the professional recitation scene in Dublin and London, Romola Tynte went to the USA:

At, details of items in a sale held New York December 2009 including an autograph letter from Oscar Wilde, on the headed paper of 16 Tyte St; to James B Pond. There’s no date on it but it’s a letter of introduction for Romola Tynte to show to Mr Pond when she reached New York. The letter was published in the Holland and Hart-Davis Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde p292, where Pond was described as the man who had arranged Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour in the US of January-March 1882.

Seen via google: autograph letter by James C Potter of New York to Romola Tynte; written during 1892 on the headed paper of the Hotel Boswyck.

Oscar Wilde was not the only famous person helping set Romola Tynte up in America:

At the Brooklyn Life of Sat 3 December 1892 p18 the Social Column: one of a “series of entertainments” on 9 December [1892] at the St George Hotel would feature a Mr McKernan and “another celebrity” Miss Romola Tynte. Miss Tynte had arrived in the US “last June” [June 1892] with a letter of introduction from Ellen Terry to William Winter of New York. Winter introduced Romola Tynte to the Newport social set and she made her debut at the Newport casino. She later gave recitals at the homes of Mrs Beach and Mrs William C Whitney.

(I’m just wondering here if ‘Mrs Beach’ is the composer and pianist Amy Beach).

At a reference to a letter from Romola Tynte in New York to William Winter, written during 1893. The only copy is in Washington DC.

New York Times 3 January 1894 a report on a recitation by Romola Tynte, which I couldn’t read in full without paying: one item on Romola’s programme, “a tragic little recitation” ended with everyone present, including herself, with tears in the eyes.

At // is the California Digital Newspaper Collection: Los Angeles Herald volume 42 number 39 issue of 20 May 1894 prints a paragraph on Romola Tynte’s success in New York, even though she doesn’t seem to have visited Los Angeles or even be about to visit it. This report says that Romola’s “earnest and spirituelle face” had been used by the painter Poynter as the basis for his head of Christ in the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. Romola Tynte had also been used as a model by Lant, for his Lesbia; by Edwin Long for his Diana or Christ; and by Frank Topham for his picture of George Eliot’s. There was no mention of Isabel’s portrait in this report, alas!

Romola Tynte’s career in public recitation seems to have been short; and she moved on to work for the women’s suffrage movement, giving only occasional, fund-raising performances:

The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives. Edited by Maroula Joannou and June Purvis. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2009 p21 in the chapter Women’s Franchise League. By October 1890 Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy was the WFL’s secretary and Romola Tynte was her assistant. Elmy was complaining at the WFL’s “brutal” treatment of both of them, which was making Elmy ill.

Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and the Victorian Feminist Movement by Maureen Wright. New York and Manchester: Manchester University Press 2011 p143 mentions two recitals by Romola Tynte given during May 1890 to raise funds for the Women’s Franchise League.

Probate Registry index shows that Mary Magill Tynte Potter died on 30 July 1913, in Exmouth.



An oil painting.

This is one of the few works Isabel showed after the fire of August 1900 and it was probably painted after that disaster. Exhibited in 1901; Liverpool.



Exhibited as Semiramide 1882; Royal Albert Hall London.

Exhibited 1883 as Semiramis; Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh and Birmingham.



This was a sketch; the medium wasn’t described in my source.

Exhibited 1881; Society of Lady Artists London.

I’m thinking here that, as this was a sketch, it might have been part of the preparations for one of Isabel’s ‘dancing girl’ works, or for Semiramide or the Greek Captive and her Nubian Slave.



Probably 1878

Ski, apparently pronounced Sky, was the name of the native American Indian who was the spirit guide of the American spiritualist medium Mary J Hollis-Billing. The work was never exhibited. It has a rather curious history: in Memorabilia on p141 footnote1 Isabel says that Mrs Hollis-Billing showed her a photograph of a “rough sketch” of Ski in his native American Indian costume, supposedly painted from life. Isabel then used the sketch as the basis for a painting, and gave the painting to Mrs Hollis-Billing. Isabel doesn’t give a date for this ‘portrait’ on that page she states that it was done around the time that the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society was being formed; which was June 1878.



Exhibited 1878; Society of Lady Artists London.



An oil painting. 1884.

This painting isn’t mentioned in any exhibition catalogue that I’ve been able to find; nor does Isabel write about it – at least, not with that title – in Memorabilia. The reference to a work of that name, by Isabel, was in The Building News and Engineering Journal volume 46 1884 p820. This was a snippet, a review of an exhibition but I haven’t been able to confirm the venue. The reviewer said of Isabel’s painting that it was “somewhat hard and crude in colour”. Isabel showed her The Greek Captive and Her Nubian Slave at the Institute of Painters in Oils in 1884 and I think that it must be the one the reviwer saw; though I’m puzzled as to how he or she gave it what seems to be the wrong title.

Wikipedia has a list of the characters who appear in translations of 1001 Nights: Zumurrud is one. The name is from the Persian, meaning “the emerald from Samarkand”.

Seeing Isabel chose to illustrate several 1001 Nights’ characters, here’s a potted history from its wikipedia page. Most of the stories are from the Middle East and can be traced back to the Middle Ages. The work as translated and known in the west has a very complex history. A lot of work was being done in the 1880s and 1890s to try to understand how the collection first came together; perhaps Isabel knew some of the people involved in that work. The first translation into a European language was a French one from 1704. The first translation into English, a bowdlerised one from 1840 and 1859, was the one Isabel would have read in her youth; it was the standard work for many years. of what has been seen as the std version, by Edward Lane 1840, 1859. Unexpurgated translations didn’t follow until John Payne’s (9 volumes in 1882) and Richard Francis Burton’s (10 volumes in 1885), both of which had to be private publications available to subscribers only, to avoid possible prosecutions for obscenity. Isabel could have been a subscriber to one or the other of those, of course! but it does seem unlikely.



An oil painting.





Exhibited 1881: Society of Lady Artists London.



See Isabel’s comments on this painting, which mean it can be dated at 1888, probably late 1888.

A painting in pastels.

Said by Isabel (Memorabilia p159) to have been shown 1888, probably on the back of the success I describe below. Grosvenor Gallery; though I haven’t found it listed in the catalogues I have seen, I haven’t yet come across a copy of the one for the pastel exhibition of 1888-89.

Exhibited again 1891; Liverpool.

On Memorabilia p159 Isabel names Spirit of the Crystal as one of the four paintings she showed in the same exhibition at the Grosvenor Galleries. On pp161-62 she says it was a pastel, done for Isabel Cooper-Oakley, one of several works Mrs Cooper-Oakley had commissioned – all by woman artists - to be hung on the walls on the opening day of her Dorothy restaurant. Spirit of the Crystal was voted the most popular of the commissioned paintings, by the women who went to the opening, and Isabel won £5. It wasn’t sold, though – maybe the exhibits weren’t for sale. It was destroyed in the fire of 1900, together with a photograph Isabel had had taken of it.

Sources for the Dorothy restaurant:

Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End by Erika Diane Rappaport. Princeton University Press 2001. On p256 notes to Chapter 3; re footnote 146: the first Dorothy restaurant was in Mortimer St. It opened on 24 November 1888.

Constance: the Tragic and Scandal Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle . London: John Murray 2011. This was a snippet and I couldn’t see the page number. The opening of the second Dorothy, at 448 Oxford Street, on Friday 21 June 1889 was much more of a ‘high society’ affair than the opening of the first. Constance and the art critic Lady Colin Campbell were amongst the guests that day and although the Dorothys were women-only restaurants, Oscar Wilde was allowed in, for this day only. Mrs Cooper-Oakley wanted her Dorothys to serve wholesome food, cheap enough to be affordable by shop girls. Unlike clubs etc their doors opened onto the street. You paid on the way in: 8d for a main course of meat, 2 veg and bread; 2d extra got you a pudding; and coffee or tea was 1d extra again. When you had paid you were given a ticket. You found somewhere to sit; and your meal would arrive.

Reproduced as a black-and-white illustration: Unknown World volume 1 1894; shown to have been signed by Isabel. Below the reproduction was a note saying that Isabel had painted the original in 1890.



An oil painting.

Before 1894.

Reproduced as a black-and-white illustration: Unknown World volume 1 1894. Below the reproduction was a note stating that the design was based on an oil painting. No details were given of when and where the original painting had been shown; so perhaps Isabel had never exhibited it. The reproduction wasn’t signed or dated.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1886 as one of a pair, with Villa Pompeiana; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1891; Manchester.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1890; Manchester



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1901; Liverpool.

Given the year that she showed it, it’s probably one of the few paintings Isabel did after the fire of August 1900. I don’t know when Isabel went to Anglesey but all her sketch books were destroyed in the fire of August 1900.



See Valkyrie Maidens




This was the only sculpture Isabel ever showed.

Exhibited 1892; Liverpool.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1885; Liverpool.

Those are Isabel’s quote marks. However, when I googled the phrase, I didn’t get any responses.



I’m assuming that Isabel showed one painting five times. If so, it’s an oil painting.

Exhibited 1881 with a very long title: “The Three Valkyrie Maidens - Messengers of the Gods, proclaiming from a lone rock in the Northern Ocean to the sea-birds and the fishes the death of Balder (sic) the Beautiful”. At the Royal Albert Hall London.

Exhibited twice in 1883 as ‘the Valkyrie maidens’: Royal Hibernian Dublin; Birmingham.

Exhibited 1884 with the 1881 full title; Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh.

Exhibited 1886 with no subtitle but a reference (my quotes) vide Robert Buchanan’s Poem”.

There’s a wiki but not a full wikipedia page on Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901) poet, novelist and playwright. The wiki refers to the mysticism of his The Book of Orm published 1870. At you can see the full text of the poem reproduced from the 1885 edition published by Chatto and Windus. It’s full title is The Earthquake; Or Six Days and a Sabbath pubd Chatto and Windus 1885. The reference to Valkyries that I suppose Isabel is illustrating is:

Like Valkyries heavenly-eyed

From the storm-cloud trooping forth...

There’s a wiki on the Norse god Baldr (also seen spelled Balder and Baldur). He was a son of Odin and Frigg. Baldr’s death was the first in the series of events which ended with the destruction of Ragnarok. After his death he had to remain in the underworld; he could only come out after Ragnarok had gone and the world had been remade. His death is covered at length in the Poetic Edda.

Wikipedia on valkyries, which are mentioned in the Poetic Edda (13th cent) and also in the 13th cent Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson. The Valkyries accompany Odin and Frigg and Odin’s ravens to the funeral of Baldr.



Exhibited 1884; Birmingham.



An oil painting.

Exhibited 1886 as one of a pair w Strada Tiberio; Nineteenth Century Art Society London.



Probably oil on a wood panel.

Not exhibited, at least not with the title it had when it was sold in 2002 to the person who contacted me about it, in 2019. Dated, but the full date is now difficult to read; 1881 or 1886 are possible and are likely on stylistic grounds – the influence of Alma Tadema is visible in the architectural setting, the Roman/Egyptian props and the woman’s draperies.

Readers please note: due to the uncertainty about the painting’s date, I haven’t entered it in Isabel’s ‘life-by-dates’ section.


Portrait of Dr GEORGE WYLD


I’ve not found any evidence that this was exhibited. I would think that it was either commissioned by Dr Wyld or painted for him as a friend (though he isn’t mentioned in Memorabilia). Either way, I’m sure it was given to Dr Wyld when it was finished.

My only source for it is The Artist and Journal of Home Culture volume 3 1882 p106 in issue of 1 April 1882. The last item in several pages detailing what various artists were working on at the moment mentions briefly that Dr George Wyld was “sitting for his portrait” at Isabel’s studio in Holland Park Road.

That’s the end of the list of paintings.


Isabel doesn’t mention having done any illustration work in Memorabilia. The only examples I’ve found are these:

1) illustrations in Private Instructions on the Science and Art of Organic Magnetism by Chandos Leigh Hunt . They aren’t in the first two editions, only in the 3rd: published London: G Wilson 1885.

I imagine Isabel was a friend of Chandos. Though Chandos is not mentioned in Memorabilia, the two women shared some interests and moved in some at least of the same circles. Private Instructions… is a ‘how to’ book. Isabel’s illustrations are small drawings trying to explain some of the physical work Chandos was describing in the booklet: on an unnumbered page just before p1, for example, there’s one of a pair of hands resting on someone’s shoulder blades.

Thanks are due to Vivienne Roberts and Leslie Price of the College of Psychic Studies for telling me about this work, which I hadn’t heard of before. The College has several copies of Chandos’ work and you can also see the Bodleian Library’s copy of the 3rd edition at

Chandos Leigh Hunt was born as Emily Honoria Leigh Hunt in 1854. Originally a teacher, she became a professional hypnotist early in the 1870s, trained by Joseph Wallace, the man she married in 1878. Wallace held several patents on medicines. He and Chandos were in business for many years, preparing and selling the medicines and giving consultations. They also campaigned, for a vegetarian diet and against vaccination. Joseph Wallace died in 1910. With the help of some of their children, Chandos kept up her own and her husband’s businesses until her death in 1927.

There are several works by Chandos in the British Library though it has “mislaid” its only copy of the booklet illustrated by Isabel:

1876 Vaccination Brought Home to the People. Published London, originally a lecture.

1876 A Treatise on All the Known Uses of Organic Magnetism, Phenomenal and Curative. Published London; also a lecture originally.

?1878 listed under Chandos Leigh Hunt’s name, perhaps as its translator into English: Inoculation und Vaccination sind einerlei. Baron C Dirckinck-Holmfeld. German original published Hamburg.

1884, 1885, 1901 8th edition: Physianthropy; or, the Home Cure and Eradication of Disease. London: Philanthropic Reform Publishing Office of 37 Oxford Mansions, Oxford Circus, which seems to be one of the businesses owned by Leigh Hunt and Wallace.

1885 as Mrs C L H Wallace. 366 Menus...Without the Introduction of Fish, Flesh, Fowl or Intoxicants...

1885 Dietetic Advice to the Young and the Old. Published London; originally an article in The Food Reform Magazine.

?1888 Visibility Invisible and Invisibility Visible. A New Year’s Story. London: J Burns

2) the works listed above as appearing in Unknown World in 1894 (all of which had originally been paintings).

3) frontispiece to A Book of Mystery and Vision, a book of poems by A E Waite, published London: Philip Wellby 1902, in a limited edition of 250 copies. Isabel’s illustration is to the poem on p12. Roger Wright found Cornell University’s copy on the web via; the only one we could locate in the UK was at Cambridge University, not even the British Library had one. Isabel’s illustration is black and white and is opposite the title page. Below it to the right is printed: “Drawn by I. De Steiger”. The drawing doesn’t have a title as such, but below it there’s a quote from the second-last verse of Waite’s poem pp10-12: The Voyage and the Venture. On p10 Waite gives an introductory paragraph to the poem making it clear even to the most clueless that it’s the soul that’s voyaging and venturing. As at p12:

[So therefore] days and nights dissolve

By this low-breathing sea,

While hear I pause and still resolve

Voyage and venture free!

Dim main through all my paths intone

And far through paths untrod,

Sung on by all life’s voices, lone

Let me embark for God.

I don’t think that Isabel’s drawing was ever exhibited. It’s hard to know when she did the drawing but it might be one of the few art works from after the fire of August 1900.


16 October 2019

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