Mary ('Marie') Spartali was the daughter of the merchant and former Greek consul in London, Michael Spartali. Her sister, Christina, was also a model.
Spartali was a painter and model. She married William James Stillman (1828-1901), American journalist and landscape painter. They had three children. Her daughter, Effie, and her step-daughter Lisa were both artists, while her son Michael became an architect.
Spartali was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite circle through the Ionides, who were keen patrons of the arts. She posed primarily for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, by whom she would be influenced artistically, and also Edward Burne-Jones. She also modelled for JW.
For several years, beginning in 1864, Spartali was a pupil of Ford Madox Brown. Julia Margaret Cameron often photographed her. She painted mostly in watercolour and was a talented colourist. Spartali's art was often inspired by medieval literature, although in her later career she focused on landscapes.
Spartali exhibited during the 1870s at the Royal Academy and at the Dudley and Grosvenor Galleries. She moved to Italy in 1875 with her husband, returning to England in 1898.
Maas, Jeremy, The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984; Elkan, Jenny, 'Spartali, Marie [Stillman, Mrs William James]',The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 2003.19.08).