Val Prinsep, the Pre-Raphaelite, historical and genre painter, was born in Calcutta, son of an Indian civil servant. He was educated in England, where his remarkable circle of family friends included Rossetti, Ruskin, Carlyle, Gladstone, Disraeli, Halle and Darwin. It was G. F. Watts who persuaded Prinsep to take up painting, and he studied in Paris under Gleyre, where his fellow students included E. J. Poynter, Du Maurier and Whistler.
Back in England, Prinsep was one of those who assisted Rossetti in the fresco decorations of the Oxford Union in 1857. He travelled to Italy in the company of Burne-Jones in 1859-60, and on his return to London became quite successful. In 1878 he was elected ARA, and a fortuitous marriage in 1884 (to Florence Leyland, daughter of a rich ship-owner from Liverpool) made him financially independent. He became RA somewhat tardily in 1894, and from 1900-1903 was Professor of Painting at the Academy.
Prinsep produced several pictures in the Pre-Raphaelite style, including The Queen was in her Parlour, Eating Bread and Honey and the rather classical At the Golden Gate (both pictures at Manchester), also Jane Shore (1865). With a Pre-Raphaelite minuteness of detail, classical drapery and an Eastern subject is his well-known The Death of Cleopatra (1870). Other Eastern subjects include The Taj Mahal (1877) and the remarkable Orientalist painting The Fisherman and the Jinn (1895), reminiscent of Frederick Goodall.