An enduring fascination with Perth woman Effie Gray, whose love affair rocked Victorian Britain to its conservative core, could see some of her belongings change hands for thousands of pounds at an auction sale in London this week.
A set of ornate lanterns Ms Gray bought on a trip to Venice are expected to attract global interest when they go under the hammer on Wednesday.
Wife of the 19th Century’s greatest art historian and critic John Ruskin, Ms Gray’s story of a repressed relationship and her affair with Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais still captures the public imagination.
The real life drama has been the subject of numerous books, a play, television series and even an Opera. It was made for the big screen by writer Emma Thompson in 2014, with actor Dakota Fanning in the title role.
Ms Gray’s two Venetian giltwood lanterns, which she bought on holiday with Ruskin soon after they were married, have been in the Millais family for more than 150 years.
They are being offered by auctioneers Woolley and Wallis at a sale which also includes an antique table linked to another Scottish woman who found herself at the centre of a scandal, Lady Susan Hamilton.
“Provenance is always a key factor when we put any item up for auction,” said furniture specialist Mark Yuan-Richards.
“Some of the pieces in this sale have quite remarkable stories to tell, which really brings them to life.
“The individual stories behind these two particular lots which are linked to romantic intrigue and scandal that shocked Victorian society makes fascinating reading.”
Born in Perth in 1828, Effie was trapped in what became a famously unhappy marriage to writer Ruskin, who apparently found her so unattractive he was unable to consummate the marriage.
It was in Venice that the cracks began appearing in the relationship. Ruskin went off on solitary studies, while Effie took the opportunity to socialise.
After five years of turmoil at the marital home of Bowerswell House – where Ruskin’s grandfather had stayed before taking his own life – Ms Gray met Millais and agreed to model for his painting the Order of Release.
The pair fell in love and Ms Gray began legal proceedings to have her marriage annulled on the grounds of her husband’s “incurable impotency”.
She married Millais the following the year, and the couple went on to have eight children.
She died in 1897 and is buried at the Fair City’s Kinnoull Churchyard.
The lanterns, which feature sculptures of semi-naked caryatids, are expected to sell for around £2,000.