Helen Brookfield Ashe-King [neé Jacob] (1873-1950)

Portrait of Helen Ashe King (circa 1897) by John Butler Yeats (WB Yeat’s father)

Helen Jacob (1873-1950) was the daughter of Major General William Jacob and, in 1898, married Richard Ashe-King, a novelist and man of letters, who was president of the Irish Literary Society in London. In 1928, she had a vision of Jesus and painted Him from memory. She left the painting to Francis Patrick Bellesme Ashe, who gave it to his daughter Islay Jane (Downey).

A 1928 article in the Liverpool Post describes the painting. In 1931, Lady Patricia Ward gave a fuller description of how the picture of Jesus came to be painted. It is apparent that there was some controversy that the painting shows Jesus with a moustache and short hair, whereas critics felt that He would have had a beard with longer hair. Helen Brookfield King later succumbed to the criticism and did a second painting — this time showing Jesus with a beard and slightly longer hair.

Helen painted another portrait of the “Head of Christ” from the Catacomb of SS. Nereo ed Achilleo (1st Century). A photograph has survived of the original painting by Helen Brookfield King, who reconstructed the head — only adding the parts obliterated by damp and exposure.

Another portrait by Helen Brookfield-King has recently come to light. It is of Mary Edith Annie Blackler Ashe (1902-1984), who married Arthur Trevor Mytton Poore (1894-1979). It is titled “Mary”, was painted in 1928, and is now in the possession of Lindsey and Sean Hale, who have kindly provided the photos of the portrait.