Alexander Constantine Ionides was a shipping owner and collector. He was the son of Constantine Ipliktsis (1775-1852), a Greek textile merchant who emigrated to England in 1815. Alexander settled in Manchester in 1827, changing his surname to Ionides, and married Euterpe Sgouta (1816-1892) on 5 August 1832. They had five children, of whom Constantine, Alexander, Luke and Aglaia Coronio were also art collectors.
Ionides was a merchant and stockbroker who took over the family firm when he was twenty, and by 1830 metropolitan directories list 'Ionides Co., Merchants' based at 9 Finsbury Circus, London. He was appointed Greek Consul General in London from 1854-66. The Ionides home at Tulse Hill, south London became a gathering place for diplomats, church leaders, artists, writers and musicians. JW became a frequent visitor in the 1850s after meeting Ionides' sons Luke and Alexander in Paris. From 1867 the Ionides lived at No 1 Holland Park where the house was decorated by Philip Webb, William Morris and Walter Crane.
As a collector, his taste was for the art of the Aesthetic movement, and he was a friend and patron to Watts, Armstrong, Poynter, Rossetti and JW. According to Luke Ionides, Watts' praise of At the Piano (YMSM 24) encouraged Ionides to commission Portrait of Luke A. Ionides (YMSM 32) and Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 33). He also owned Sea and Rain (YMSM 65) and Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122).
After the Ionides retired to Hastings in 1875, their son Alexander presided over the family home at Holland Park. Although it was rumoured he had lost £120,000 in a bank failure in 1864, Ionides senior continued his beneficent activities and he endowed a library, hospital and orphanage in Athens. On his death in 1890 Ionides left his fortune to his wife and daughters, believing that 'dead men's money' was a curse, in particular for male descendants.
Metaxas, K. H., Ionides Family Tree, The Greek Gazette, 1995; Macleod, Dianne Sachko, Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 433-4; Ionides, Alexander C., Ion: A Grandfather's Tale, 2 vols, Dublin, 1927.