• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7594

    Victorian and Traditionalist Pictures

    5 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 37

    John William Godward, R.B.A. (1858-1922)

    Venus binding her Hair

    Price Realised  


    John William Godward, R.B.A. (1858-1922)
    Venus binding her Hair
    oil on canvas
    44 5/8 x 89 5/8 in. (113.4 x 227.7 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    The present canvas is amongst the largest in Godward's oeuvre, though typical in its studied mixture of technical élan and heady exoticism. It is comparable in scale to the Delphic Oracle of 1899, which was sold by Christie's London on 3 June 1994, lot 153 and to Campaspe, sold at Sotheby's London on 14 December 2006, lot 127, which currently holds the auction record for the artist. Each work shows an obvious attempt on Godward's part to rival the great established classical painters of his day.

    The present painting was hung, according to Blackburn, in the 'place of honour' in Gallery VII when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1897. It is also comparable to an oil of 1900, possibly exhibited at the New Gallery of the same year, no. 255. Entitled The Toilet, it was sold at Christie's in London, on 3 June 1994 (lot 154) and depicts a female figure in a similar pose to our picture but brushing her hair and clothed in a diaphanous robe.

    The details of Godward's life are shrouded in mystery. That he became an artist against his family's wishes is scarcely unusual in the nineteenth century: however it was his reclusive nature - he declined invitations to become a member of the Royal Academy and, from 1905, ceased to exhibit at all in England - that has resulted in such a frustrating dearth of information concerning his life and works.

    We are grateful to Professor Vern Swanson, of the Springville Museum, Utah, for his help in preparing this entry.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    with Thomas Maclean, London.
    Arthur Wood, of Exbury, Hampshire, by 1897.
    Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 26 March 1982, lot 63 (£16,000). Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 14 March 1997, lot 52, when acquired by the present owner.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the provenance should read
    The Forbes Collection of Victorian Pictures and Works of Art, 20 February 2003, lot 284, where acquired by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Henry Blackburn (ed.), Royal Academy Notes 1897, London, 1897, p. 21.


    London, Royal Academy, 1897, no. 664.
    London, Owen Edgar Gallery, Master Paintings from Four Centuries, 1984.
    Artists and Models, 1998, no. 13.