Sunday, October 9, 2011
John William Godward - Ione
signed 'J.W. Godward' (lower right)
oil on canvas
50 1/4 x 35 1/4in (127.5 x 89.4cm)
Sold for $684,000 inclusive of Buyer's Premium
This previously unrecorded work is not only a major discovery but also shows Godward’s artistic virtuosity in combining sensuality and beauty within an academic framework. Godward’s biographer, Vern Swanson, who has described Ione as ‘an outstanding example of the artist’s work’ will be including it in his revised Godward catalogue raisonné. In dating Ione Dr. Swanson has compared it to other of the artist’s paintings executed between 1893 and 1900 but more specifically to 1896-98 based on the style of the artist’s signature.
Ione appears to be the first of Godward’s paintings to portray the model wearing a headdress of violets and, in this, anticipates another great work Ionian Dancing Girl of 1902, in which the dark-haired beauty is crowned by a similar floral arrangement. Another oil from 1902, With Violets Wreathed and Robe of Saffron Hue also shows an Italianate girl wearing a similar wreath, while in Godward’s Violets, Sweet Violets of 1906 (sold by Bonhams London, 28th June 2005, for £364,000 incl.) the bunch of violets held in the young model’s hand becomes a focal point to the overall composition.
It was almost certainly because of the violets that Ione gained its title, since the Greek name for these delicate flowers is ion or ione after the legendry beauty Io. According to mythology when Zeus, the chief Olympian god turned his lover Io into a white heifer in order to hide her from his wife Hera, he summoned the earth to produce such flowers in her honor. Violets held a symbolic significance for the ancient Greeks who, associating them with love and fertility, made love potions from their flower heads, while the Romans scattered their petals and leaves in their banqueting halls and drank violetum, a sweet wine to welcome the spring. Often referred to by Shakespeare who described the violet as ‘Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting”, they assumed renewed popularity during the nineteenth century. As Napoleon’s favorite flower they became a Bonaparte emblem but were more commonly associated with love and faithfulness and thus were often portrayed on valentine cards and in paintings by such artists as J. J. Tissot, J. W. Waterhouse and in Edouard Manet’s portrait of Berthe Morisot. Certainly Godward would have been aware of such symbolism as well as the history of the violet that dated back to Classical Antiquity, a period and style which of course dominated throughout his oeuvre.
Violets also came to symbolize modesty (and as such appeared in Medieval missals and Gothic psalters) yet there seems to be little association here with this characteristic for Ione’s shimmering sea-green chiffon coa vestis tunic, gathered by contrasting golden ribbons, appears to enhance an underlying eroticism. In this, the work can be compared with The Toilette (1900), in which the standing model, seen in profile, wears similar colored diaphanous robes. However in Ione, Godward also includes a characteristic stolla, this time painted in golden hues and worn around the model’s hips.
Ione was painted at Godward’s London home at 410 Fulham Road, almost certainly in his newly built garden studio which he filled with numerous Greco-Roman style artefacts, many of which can be seen in the present work. Ione, like The Toilette and Reflections (1893) features a very similar carved ivory jewel casket set upon a marble ledge and a caryatid lion head support. While the latter two works show the monopodium facing forward, here it is in profile and in this is identical to a tripod leg supporting a circular marble table in At The Garden Shrine, Pompeii (1892) and The Jewel Casket (1900); it then reappears with a griffin rather than lion head in The New Perfume of 1914. Ione, The Toilette and The Jewel Casket all show the model looking at her reflection in the same hand-held mirror, while the antique pottery askos placed beside the casket also features in other works such as The Sweet Siesta of a Summer Day (1891) and later in Nerissa (1906).
Not only a great painting, Ione has a very interesting provenance. It was given to the present owner, Mrs. Marie Balzano at least forty years ago by her close friend, the New York-born painter, etcher and teacher Eugene Califano (1893-1974), who acquired Ione from his father, the genre and landscape artist John Edmund Califano (1862-1946). Born and trained in Rome, J. E. Califano was an almost exact contemporary of Godward; in 1881, the year after winning a gold medal in Rome, he moved to California where he continued to make his name as well as in Chicago and New York. Family history states that the elder Califano acquired Ione direct from Godward, which would explain why a painting of this substantial size and obvious importance was neither exhibited nor reproduced and has long been hidden from public view.
at 5:05 PM