Missing for half a century, Mischief and Repose, represents an important re-discovery in Godward's oeuvre and belongs amongst the finest examples of the artist's work.
Painted in 1909, it was not the first time that Godward had produced a work with this title. He first used it in 1895 portraying two Roman maidens instead of one. The reclining beauty in the earlier version (J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, Malibu, see fig.1), is reminiscent of the girl in the present lot, and the poses and compositions echo each other. Each figure wears a diaphanous blue dress, loosely bound by silk ties, and luxuriously reclines on a tiger skin, their right hands behind their heads and elbows facing upwards.
In the 1895 version, the reclining girl is Repose, and her teasing friend Mischief, while in the present picture Godward has combined the personalities of each model, presenting a girl who embodies both characteristics of the title. As opposed to being asleep, she looks directly at the viewer, her sultry gaze penetrating, with mischievous intent. Her resplendent auburn hair, described by Dr Vern Swanson, author of John William Godward, The Eclipse of Classicism, as 'the most magnificent ever painted by the artist', offers comfort, luxury and other pleasures.
Godward excelled at depicting texture and surface, as seen here in the handling of the rug and floor. The masterful balance of composition is complimented by his use of colour and shade, with the light blue of the tunic echoing the deep blue of the Mediterranean beyond, each colour placed in perfect harmony.
We are grateful to Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springfield Museum of Art, Utah, for his help in the preparation of this catalogue entry.