The Italian Flower Girl
Research by Marion Nuttall and Marjorie Gregson
This painting is signed and there is another version, The Fairest Rose, also signed and dated 1887 (Christies London, 20 April 1978). This second version is smaller and painted on panel but otherwise the composition is identical. (1)
Also known as Eugene von Blaas and Eugenio Blaas.
Born in Albano, near Rome, Italy to Austrian parents, Eugene de Blaas was academically and classically trained in the school known as Academic Classicism. (2) He was taught by his father, Karl, who was also a painter. The family moved to Venice when Karl de Blaas became a professor at the Academy there. Eugene was later to be a professor of the same Academy. (1) He often painted scenes in Venice but also religious paintings and portraits depicting Venetian fisherfolk, gondoliers and Venetian beauties. (3) Luigi Chirtari, art critic, described him as a favourite portraitist of great Venetian aristocrats. (2) His colourful and rather theatrical period images of Venetian society, such as On the balcony (1877), were quite different to the delicate pastels and etchings of the courtyards, balconies and canals of modern Venice. (4)
Between 1875 and 1891 de Blaas exhibited twelve works at the Royal Academy, London. By 1885 the London art dealer, Arthur Tooth & Son, represented him - an indication of his popularity in Britain. (3) His paintings are collected by the Royal Academy, Fine Art Society and New Gallery London, the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool (4) and can be seen in museums & art galleries in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester. (3)
Alice Maud Wrigley was born in Preston in 1880 to Henry and Elizabeth. At the time of her marriage to Thomas Percival Bibby, in 1905 at Christ Church, Blackpool, her family had already moved to Blackpool and were living at 67 Raikes Road. Although her father's occupation was then described as a clogger, by the 1911 census he was recorded as a retired pawnbroker. Alice's occupation was described as a private school teacher.
Thomas Percival Bibby was born in Preston in 1877. (5) He was the son of John Bibby who, in 1908, became the sole owner of a cotton mill, Balderstone Mill, Freckleton. The mill, which closed in the 1960s, was the first velvet weaving firm in the country. Thomas Percival Bibby was a Commodore of the Ribble Cruising Club. (7) (8) (9)
Thomas and Alice had a daughter, Alla, born in 1910. She married Russell Dixon in 1932.
Thomas died on 18 March 1937. His funeral was at Lytham Parish Church. Alice died in 1956 in Manor Hospital, Nuneaton. However, her home address at probate was 2 Coronation Road, Lytham St Annes. She left £62,956.
(1) Lisa Howard, The National Inventory of Continental European Paintings
(2) Dizionario degli Artisti Italiani Viventi: pittori, scultori, e Architetti by Angelo de Gubernatis Tipe dei Successore le Monnier, (1889), p61
(4) Biography of old oil painting master Eugene de Blaas, Favoritearts Info,
retrieved 7 November 2013
(6) Probate 26 July 1937
(7) Personal contact with Mrs Ann Hartley, grand-daughter of Thomas Percival Bibby, September 2014
(8) Public Catalogue Foundation, oil paintings in public ownership in Lancashire
(9) Fylde Council, General Purposes Committee, 17 November 1941, Item 45(b) Confirmed and approved at the Council Meeting, 24 November 1941, Minute 65