SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A., R.W.S. (1836-1912)
SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A., R.W.S. (1836-1912)
SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A., R.W.S. (1836-1912)
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SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A., R.W.S. (1836-1912)

An Apodyterium

SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A., R.W.S. (1836-1912)
An Apodyterium
signed and inscribed 'OP CCLXXIV./L Alma Tadema' (upper center)
oil on panel
17 7⁄8 x 24 in. (45.3 x 60.96 cm.)
Painted in April 1886
Thomas McLean & Sons, London (acquired from the artist, 1886).
Samuel Joshua, London (acquired from the above, 1887).
Marie Joshua, London (by descent from the above, 1907).
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 21 January 1921, lot 25.
W.W. Sampson & Son, London (acquired at the above sale).
William A. Cargill, Carruth, Bridge of Weir, Scotland; Estate sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 May 1963, lot 42.
Charles Jerdein, London (acquired at the above sale).
Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, Toronto (acquired from the above, 1968, until at least 1990).
Anon. sale. Christie's, London, 9 June 1995, lot 343.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
"The Royal Academy" in The Times, London, 1 May 1886, p. 10.
"The Royal Academy, First Notice" in Athenauem, no. 3053, 1 May 1886, p. 589.
"Our London Correspondence" in Bradford Daily Telegraph, 1 May 1886, n.p.
"The Royal Academy II" in St. James's Gazette, 7 May 1886, p. 7.
"Pictures in the Exhibition of the Royal Academy" in Illustrated London News, 8 May 1886, p. 490 (illustrated with the engraving).
"The Royal Academy" in Reading Mercury, 8 May 1886, p. 8.
"Literary and Art Notes" in The Western Daily Press, 10 May 1886, p. 7.
"Pictures for the Antipodes" in Herald and Lakes News, 11 May 1888, p. 3.
"Literary and Art Notes, etc." in Pall Mall Budget, 13 May 1886, p. 30.
"The Royal Academy" in Falmouth and Penryn Weekly Times, 15 May 1886, p. 3.
"Our Notebook" in Illustrated London News, 29 May 1886, p. 560.
Munsey's Magazine, New York, May 1986, vol. XV, p. 191 (illustrated).
"The Royal Academy" in The Civil and Military Gazette, 7 June 1886, p. 5.
"Sketches of Famous Pictures in the Royal Academy" in The Guardian, Boston, 19 June 1886, p. 8, (illustrated).
"Trying for the Twenty, A Lady's Gossip about our "Academy" Prize" in Pall Mall Budget, 5 August 1886, p. 22.
"Our London Letter" in The Eastern Evening News, 9 August 1886, p. 2.
"Our Academy Competition" in Pall Mall Gazette, 16 August 1886, p. 2.
"Our London Correspondence" in Bradford Daily Telegraph, Bradford, 17 August 1886.
"Pictures of the Year" in Pall Mall Budget, 19 August 1886, pp. 11-12.
"The Week" in The West Somerset Free Press, 21 August 1886, p. 6.
"Local Chit-Chat" in Kilburn Times and Western Post, 27 August 1886, p. 4.
"Art Notes" in The Liverpool Mercury, 30 August 1886, p. 5.
H. Blackburn, ed., Royal Academy Notes, London, 1886, pp. 9 and 45 (illustrated).
M. H. Bell, Royal Academy Yearbook, London, 1886, p. 13 (illustrated).
Royal Academy Illustrated, London, 1886, p. 12, no. 285.
"Pictures of the Year" in Pall Mall Gazette 'Extra', 1886, p. 22 (illustrated).
"Exhibition of the Royal Academy" in Art Journal, 1886, pp. 186 and 222 (illustrated with the engraving).
A. M. N., "Fine Art at the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition" in The Western Daily Press, 1 July 1887, p. 7.
"Art at the Melbourne Exhibition" in The Colonies and India, 16 May 1888, p. 31.
"Art Chronicle" in The Portfolio, 1888, p. 124.
"Centennial International Exhibition" in Sun and Shade, vol. 1, no. 8, April 1889, p. 29 (illustrated, pl. VIII).
P. C. Standing, Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, O.M., R.A., London, 1905, p. 79.
R. Dircks, "The Later Works of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, O.M., R.A., R.W.S.," in Art Annual, December 1910, p. 31.
A. Hayden, "Art in the Sale Rooms" in Illustrated London News, 22 January 1921, p. 114.
J. Nicoll, "Distinguished Victorian" in Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, 4 June 1938, p. 6.
M. Rheims, The Flowering of Art Nouveau, New York, 1966, p. 143, no. 202 (illustrated).
G. Reynolds, Victorian Painting, New York, 1966, pp. 123 and 140 (illustrated, pl. 89).
Apollo, June 1967 p. XXXVII (illustrated).
M. Amaya, "The Painter who Inspired Hollywood" in Sunday Times Magazine, 18 February 1968, p. 30 (illustrated).
T. Prideaux, The World of Whistler, New York, 1970, pp. 56-57 (illustrated).
R. Ash, Alma-Tadema, An Illustrated Life, Boston, 1973, p. 27 (illustrated).
M. Amaya, The Victorians-A World Built to Last, New York, 1974, p. 88 (illustrated).
V.G. Swanson, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: The Painter of the Victorian Vision of the Ancient World, New York, 1977, pp. 54 and 130 (illustrated, pl. 12).
R. Borger, Drei Klassizisten: Alma Tadema, Ebers, Vosmaer, Leiden, 1978, p. 14, no. 274.
V.G. Swanson, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: de schilder van een groots Verleden, Amsterdam, 1978, p. 1.
V.G. Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London, 1990, pp. 231-232 and 429, no. 312 (illustrated).
L. Nochlin, Style and Civilization, Realism, 1991, digital publication.
R.J. Barrow, Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, exh. cat. New York, 1996, p. 250, no. 76.
R.J. Barrow, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London and New York, 2001, pp. 99, 102 and 144, no. 94 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy, 1886, no. 285.
Manchester, Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, no. 312.
Melbourne, Australia, Centennial International Exhibition, 1888, no. 116.
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, January-March 1913, no. 169.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 43rd Autumn Exhibition of Modern Art, 1913, no. 1041.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1968-1969.
London, Royal Academy, Bicentenary Exhibition, December 1968-March 1969, no. 57.
Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery and Newcastle, Laing Art Gallery, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, July-August 1976, August-September 1976, no. 15.
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, The Other Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Tanenbaum, May 1978-July 1979, no. 1.
Leopold Lowenstam, London, 1886.

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Lot Essay

From 1875 onwards, Alma-Tadema began to explore the theme of the Roman Bath in his work, possibly inspired by his acquisition of large portfolio of photographs of Pompeii. While depicting nude figures in classical settings was not new—Leighton and his followers had begun to shake off this taboo in Victorian painting more than a decade earlier—nudes were primarily used in idealized mythological contexts to make them more acceptable for public exhibition. As a depiction of nudity in the context of everyday Roman life, An Apodyterium represents a more daring approach by Alma-Tadema to stretch the bounds of propriety in Victorian art while still remaining appropriate for the setting and to educate the viewer about ancient social customs.
The apodyterium was the entrance and changing room for public baths during Roman times, and in taking up the subject, Alma-Tadema was able to demonstrate not only his mastery of the human form and his skill at depicting marble, but his archaeological knowledge as well. The niches depicted in the wall at right were used to store clothing and valuables while their owner was bathing (many of the famed curse tablets excavated from the spring at Bath in the UK ask for intervention by the gods over clothing and valuables stolen from the apodyterium there). The foremost figure stares frankly out at the viewer as she touches the tie of her stola and prepares to disrobe, while behind her a nude figure unlaces the ribbons which bind her sandals. In the middle ground another nude figure is followed into the next room by two balneatrices—female bath attendants—one of whom carries a tray of towels, the other carrying strigils and other metal instruments which were used to apply oil to the skin and then scrape it off, an early form of cleansing. The highly detailed and brightly painted courtyard visible through the entrance to the apodyterium at the back of the composition illustrates the depth and breadth of Alma-Tadema’s archeological understanding of the setting.
An Apodyterium received a rapturous response when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886. It was voted the "picture of the year" by readers of the Pall Mall Gazette and the critics of the day seem to have agreed. The Art Journal described it as "painted with all the artist's unerring precision and skill" and The Times called it "Mr Alma-Tadema's little masterpiece...when we come before the Apodyterium, and contrive to forget for a moment the indifferent work that surrounds it, we feel ourselves in the presence of a man who in his own department is really great… the whole picture is composed with so much knowledge and finish, with such a unity of idea, and in so lovely a scheme of colour, that we must rank it among Mr Alma-Tadema's finest pictures of this size."
It has been suggested that the foremost figure staring out of the picture plane may have been modelled after the artist's eldest daughter Laurence, who was twenty-one at the time. However upon close examination, it seems more likely that the sitter was in fact her step-mother, Alma-Tadema's second wife, born Laura Teresa Epps, and a painter in her own right. Certainly the figure bears a striking resemblance to Alma-Tadema’s portrait of his wife from 1880, Interrupted, and also the later likeness in A Family Group of 1896. The figure in An Apodyterium has the same oval-shaped chin, rounded eyes and striking nose, as well as the red hair that was characteristic of Laura's family.

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