Monday, June 28, 2010

John William Godward - Phyrrha after her bath

signed with monogram and dated 1903 l.l.
oil on panel
29 by 14cm., 11½ by 5½in.

ESTIMATE 20,000 - 30,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 44,450 GBP

The stencil-mark on the reverse of this panel identifies the picture as a version of a painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1903. The title is taken from Horace's poem Carmen, in which the name Phyrrha (or Pyrrha) can be interpreted as meaning 'fiery-red'. The name is also mentioned by Ovid in Metamorphoses. She was the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora and wife of Deucalion. When Zeus sought to destroy humanity by sending a terrible flood, she was the only mortal woman to be spared. Godward playfully depicted her dressing after bathing in a thermae.

Godward painted relatively few nudes, a notable example being Campaspe (sold in these rooms for an auction record price, 14 December 2006, lot 127) painted in 1896. It was Godward's habit to make smaller versions of his more ambitious pictures and a similar panel made in preparation for Venus at the Bath Godward's Royal Academy
exhibit of 1901, is known.

Phyrrah's pose echoes that of the classical statue known as the Venus of Arles, a bronze copy of which is placed in a niche in the background.


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