The present work relates to a smaller picture entitled At the Garden Shrine, Pompeii of 1892 sold at Christie’s, New York, 2 May 2001. The compositions have several similarities, both taking place within sheltered gardens featuring Pompeiian shrines and with the central female figure dressed in the same dusty purple and pistachio toga. The subjects, however, vary and in the present lot an elegant woman winds wool. Vern Swanson notes that ‘during this period of time Godward became interested in painting domestic scenes of young women sewing or winding wool’ (V.G. Swanson, op. cit., 2018, p. 270).
Set in an ancient garden courtyard, Godward's classical lady winds wool, holding the spool high up with her left hand as she pulls the wool taut in her right, creating a strong and dynamic diagonal line across the composition. Godward sets a red-figured Greek hydria and a fruit bowl upon a lion-headed trapezophorus table. To the left, resting on a variegated rose marble pedestal, stands a large white Carrara marble statue of the famous Venus of Arles. The vibrant blue and red mosaic wall niche is called an aedicula, with the tesserae rendered by Godward in exquisite detail. The aedicula houses a bronze cultic statue of Nike, the winged goddess of victory. This inclusion was probably inspired by late nineteenth century edited reductions by Chiurazzi & Fils, Naples, of an antique sculpture of Winged Victory excavated at Pompeii.
The marriage of Godward’s brushwork to his extraordinary palette of colours results in a range of textures - the cold and hard feel of the marble next to the soft and ephemeral fabric of the model's purple and green toga and the sumptuous tiger skin draped over her chair. Not only do his artistic imitations of the classical world reveal attention to decorative detail, but reinforce the desire to keep alive the glory of a time long past.