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Oil painting - Agathonike Helen Ionides
  • Agathonike Helen Ionides
    Watts, George Frederic OM, RA, born 1817 - died 1904
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Agathonike Helen Ionides

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1893 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Watts, George Frederic OM, RA, born 1817 - died 1904 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Agathonike Helen Ionides (1887-1976), known as ‘Nellie’, was the granddaughter of Constantine Alexander Ionides and his wife Agathonike. Watts painted portraits of several members of the Ionides family.

Physical description

Portrait of Agathonike Helen Ionides (Nellie Ionides), as a young girl, wearing a white dress and her long red hair worn loose, her hands clasped before her. In a contemporary gilt oak frame. The frame which combines baroque leafy mouldings with the flat gold characteristic of the plain frames of 'aesthetic movement'.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1893 (painted)


Watts, George Frederic OM, RA, born 1817 - died 1904 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

G. F. Watts / 1893
Signed in the lower right-hand corner


Height: 77.8 cm estimate, Width: 47 cm estimate

Object history note

Many of Watt's portraits used this type of frame, which combines baroque leafy mouldings with the flat gold characteristic of the plain frames of 'aesthetic movement'.

Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900. However, it was stipulated in the will that this, along with 19 other family portraits, should stay in the family until the death of his wife - she died in 1920 when the paintings were received by the museum.

Historical significance: George Frederick Watts was born on 23 September, 1817. He received no regular schooling on account of poor health, but later studied under the sculptor William Behnes and entered the R.A schools in 1835. In 1837 he achieved recognition for The Wounded Heron (Compton Watts Gal.), exhibited at the R.A. Watts won a prize of £300 for his painting Caractacus in the 1843 Westminster Hall competition. He went to Florence until 1847, where he worked under the patronage of Lady Holland. On his return to England, Watts won a further prize of £500 in the Westminster Hall competition for his Alfred inciting the Saxons to prevent the landing of the Danes. Inspired by Michelangelo and with his reputation now firmly established, Watts was determined to devote himself to grand, universal themes such as Faith; Hope; Charity; Love and Life; and Love and Death. However he rose to front rank as a portrait painter and painted of his many eminent contemporaries including Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, William Gladstone and John Everett Millais. He was elected to the A.R.A and R.A in 1867. In 1864 he married 16-year-old Ellen Terry and painted a charming allegorical portrait of her, Choosing, but the couple separated the following year. A major late sculpture, Physical Energy (1904, London, Kensington Gardens) is surprisingly modernistic. Watts presented many of his works to art galleries and institutions. He died on 1 July, 1904.

Agathonike Helen 'Nellie' Ionides (1887-1974), was the eldest daughter of Alexander Constantine 'Alec' Ionides (1862-1931) and Calliope 'Opie' Zarifi (1864-1952), and granddaughter of Constantine Alexander Ionides (CAI 1141), donor of the V&A's Ionides collection. In this portrait as a young girl, she is painted in neutral shades wearing a simple white dress. Nellie later married George Constantine Demetriadi in 1908 and the couple had six children. During a lifelong friendship, Watts painted over fifty members of the Ionides family and this portrait was the fifth generation of the family to be painted before his death in 1904. The frame was designed by Watts and its baroque leaf mouldings combined with areas of flat gold are characteristic of the plain frames of the 'aesthetic movement'. The painting entered the V&A collection in 1920 after the death of Nellie's grandmother and wife of the museum's donor, Agathonike Ionides.

Historical context note

The frame was designed by G. F. Watts

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Agathonike Helen Ionides (Nellie Ionides)', George Frederick Watts, England, 1893, in a contemporary gilt oak frame


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Portraits; Girls


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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