John William Godward, R.B.A. (1861-1922)
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John William Godward, R.B.A. (1861-1922)


John William Godward, R.B.A. (1861-1922)
signed, inscribed and dated ‘To E.P. SCOONES/FROM HIS FRIEND/J.W. GODWARD/92' (lower right)
oil on canvas
9 ¾ x 6 ¾ in. (24.8 x 17.2 cm.)
Given by the artist to E.P. Scoones, and by descent to his sister
Kathleen Scoones, until circa 1956, by whom given to
Private Collection.
Anonymous sale; Phillips, London, 3 June 1997, lot 76.
with Richard Green, London.
Private collection, 1997.
V. Swanson, John William Godward: The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, 1997, no. 1, p. 180, illustrated.
London, Richard Green, Vistas of the Nineteenth Century, November 1997, no. 9.
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Lot Essay

Clymene appears in several classical sources. In Greek mythology, she was the daughter of Oceanus and the mother of Atlas and Prometheus. Another Greek legend names her as a relative of Menalaus and a companion of his faithless, yet beautiful, wife Helen. In this story both Helen and Clymene were carried off by Paris to Troy, causing the Trojan War.

The present work is a smaller, more successful version of Godward’s Royal Academy exhibit of 1891, one of his first oil paintings to be admired and remarked upon by the press. In this delicate study of contrasting tones and textures, the artist has removed superfluous details such as the bas-relief of a Dionysian procession and the mosaic floor from the RA work, concentrating on the radiant splendour of the female figure. Leaning against a high, marble veranda holding a peacock fan (the first of Godward’s paintings to include one), the classical heroine stands challenging the beauty of Helen of Troy. Her direct gaze engages the viewer, and by holding the fan against her lovely head, Godward offers a tactile comparison between the softness of the feathers and her warm, golden hair, both rendered with the finest of brushstrokes. Touches of green from the peacock fan are picked up in the borders of her beautifully draped, golden dress, which echoes the sunlit highlights of her curls. The bright, gold garment evokes the light and warmth of the Mediterranean sun in contrast to the setting of cool marble and pale blue sky. It is likely that the model for Clymene was Lily Pettigrew, one of the famous ‘sisters Pettigrew’ (Harriet, Lillian and Rose), known as the leading artist’s models of the day. During their careers, the distinctive Pre-Raphaelite beauties posed for the most important artists of the age, including Millais, Whistler, Sargent and Poynter.

Scoones, to whom this picture is dedicated, worked in Westminster, as an insurance clerk and auditor, which was the same profession as Godward's father and brothers.

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