Clelia was painted in 1913, the year following Godward’s departure to Rome in order to accompany his favourite model, who was returning to her homeland in Italy. This unconventional relocation scandalised Godward’s family, and caused a lasting schism between them until his death. Upon his arrival in Italy, Godward set up a studio at the Villa Strohl-Fern on Monti Parioli, referred to by locals as the ‘English Hill’ in northern Rome. Here Godward filled the villa's gardens with antique sculptures, creating an idyllic classical backdrop that came to feature in many of his works.
Clelia is a recently discovered work and a classic example of his 'beauties tableaux' of young women from antiquity. Here Godward depicts his model bust-length and in profile, with her thick dark hair elaborately braided, coiled and held in place with golden ribbons. The warm rendering of her rose coloured complexion contrasts with the cool white tones of the meticulously detailed marble that she stands in front of. Clelia wears a crimson tunic fastened at the sleeve with pearl fibulae and with purple outer drape. As with many of Godward’s compositions the title is vague, though the name Clelia is derived from the Latin Cloelia, meaning illustrious or famous. In Roman legend Cloelia was taken hostage by Etruscan invaders, but managed to escape by swimming across the Tiber.
We are grateful to Dr Vern Swanson for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. This work will be included in any forthcoming editions of the catalogue raisonné.