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Solomon Joseph Solomon Lot 120
Solomon Joseph Solomon, R.A., P.R.B.A. (1860-1927)
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Solomon Joseph Solomon, R.A., P.R.B.A. (1860-1927)

The Judgement of Paris

Solomon Joseph Solomon, R.A., P.R.B.A. (1860-1927)
The Judgement of Paris
signed and dated ‘Solomon J Solomon 91’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
93 x 65 ¼ in. (236.3 x 165.7 cm.)
George McCulloch (†); Christie’s, London, 23, 29 and 30 May 1913 (second day), lot 187 (500 gns to Gooden & Fox).
1st Viscount Leverhulme, and by bequest to The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight; Christie's, London, 6 June 1958, lot 158 (45 gns to Dent).
‘Art Notes’, The Pall Mall Gazette, 10 September 1890.
‘Private view at the Royal Academy: The Picture Sales’, Pall Mall Gazette, 1 May 1891.
The Pall Mall Gazette, 2 May 1891.
Morning Post, 19 May 1891.
The Standard, 30 June 1891.
‘Pictures of the Year – VIII’, The Graphic, 12 September 1891, p. 299.
The Graphic, 12 September 1891, p. 299.
H. Blackburn, The Academy Notes, London, May 1891, pp. 23, 122, no. 988.
The Art Journal, 1891, pp. 186, 188.
The Studio, London, Vol. 8, December 1896, pp. 4, 9, illustrated on frontispiece.
A.L. Baldry, ‘The Collection of George McCulloch, Esq.’, Art Journal, 1897, p. 376.
‘The McCulloch collection of Modern Art’, Art Journal, special edition, London, 1909, illustrated p. 46.
O.S. Phillips, Solomon J. Solomon: A Memoir of Peace and War, London, 1933, p. 233.
J. Pery, Solomon J. Solomon RA, exh. cat., Ben Uri Art Gallery, London, 1990, p. 15, 29, illustrated p. 15.
C. Dakers, The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society, New Haven and London, 1999, p. 259.
J. Gurney (Intro.) and Solomon J. Solomon, The Practise of Oil Painting & Drawing, 2012, p. 6.
London, Royal Academy, 1891, no. 988 (sold for £840).
London, Guildhall, Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, 1897, no. 47.
London, Royal Academy, Modern Works in Painting and Sculpture forming the collection of the Late George McCulloch, Esq., 1909, no. 93.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, Jubilee, 1922, number untraced.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note the dimensions for this picture should read 93 x 65 ¼ in. (236.3 x 165.7 cm.) and not as stated in the catalogue entry.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

Lot Essay

Solomon was a great admirer of the ancient world: 'Art reached its highest expression in the hands of the Greeks. Their mythology, so rich in imagery, so inspiring to the artist, so beautiful from the aesthetic side, could not fail in the course of time, among a race so sensitive, to produce the wonders of both sculpture and architecture that are unsurpassed and unsurpassable' (J. Gurney (Intro.) and Solomon J. Solomon, The Practise of Oil Painting & Drawing, 2012 edition, p. 6). The Judgement of Paris is a well-known tale from Greek mythology in which Paris, a Trojan goat-herder, is asked by Zeus, the king of the gods, to choose the fairest goddess between Hera, the queen of the gods, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and award a golden apple to his chosen victor. Each goddess promises him a prize, with Aphrodite offering him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta, married to the Greek king Menelaus. In awarding Aphrodite the apple, Paris receives Helen but also gains the wrath of the Greeks, and thus sparks the Trojan War.

In Solomon’s bold composition the viewer assume's Paris's role of judge. We are faced by the three goddesses, the apple and one of Paris's goats. Aphrodite stands as the proud victor in the centre, with Athena seated to the left, and Hera hidden under the blossom to the right. Whilst Athena and Hera hold their gaze jealously towards Aphrodite, she stands unashamedly proud looking directly at the viewer. As Jenny Pery wrote, in her catalogue for the Solomon Ben Uri exhibition in 1990, in 19th Century Britain ‘women were idealised, and as the Royal Academy was one of the few places where the public could legally gaze at naked women, these ideal nudes were immensely popular. Solomon was a serious contender in the competition to paint the most beautiful nude. Both his ‘Judgment of Paris’ of 1891 and his ‘Eve’, painted as late as 1908, attracted much attention’ (J. Pery, Solomon J. Solomon RA, Ben Uri Gallery, 1990, p. 15). Solomon’s Eve was sold in these Rooms on 16 December 2009 (lot 27) for £713,250, and is now on loan to Tate Britain.

Solomon’s painting garnered much press coverage both before and after its appearance at the Royal Academy in 1891. A critic for The Pall Mall Gazette gained access to the artist’s studio in September 1890 and reported that ‘Mr S.J. Solomon is making considerable progress with his next Royal Academy picture. The subject is ‘The Judgment of Paris,’ which gives him the opportunity of painting flesh in the open air – the severest test to which a painter can put himself’. Once on the walls of the Academy the painting received mixed reviews. A number of critics found the absence of Paris from the painting unusual, but it was largely praised: ‘Certain is it that Mr Solomon has painted a brilliant and beautiful picture. It is, as far as Venus in concerned, a study of the nude in outdoor light. Effulgent sunshine, a blue sky, and almond blossoms in radiant profusion give to the painting extraordinary brightness and variety of colour. The figure of Venus standing in the foreground is admirably drawn and modelled’ (Morning Post, 19 May 1891).

The painting has a fascinating and important provenance from two of the greatest private collections of 19th and 20th Century Britain. Its first owner was George McCulloch, a Scottish mine owner, who had made his fortune in Australia and acquired the painting from the 1891 Academy exhibition for a significant £840. In 1891 he returned to London, and between 1893 and his death in 1907 he established an art collection of international renown in which McCulloch had ‘summarised effectively the whole range of British art as we see it at the present moment, and has done so with a degree of discretion which argues the possession by him of a peculiarly keen insight into the intentions and aims of the artists who lead our native school’ (A.L. Baldry, ‘The Collection of George McCulloch, Esq.’, Art Journal, 1897, p. 374.) The parameters of the collection were that each work had to have been painted within his own lifetime. Amongst the three hundred works hung at 184 Queen's Gate, Kensington, were Millais's Sir Isumbras, two great Leightons, The Daphnephoria, and The Garden of the Hesperides, and Waterhouse’s masterpiece St Cecilia. Amongst his three late Burne-Jones's was the oil version of Love among the Ruins.

At the 1913 Christie’s sale of McCulloch’s paintings the picture was bought by Gooden & Fox and made its way into the collection of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925). It and was given by him to the Lady Lever Art Gallery which he built for the benefit of his workforce at Port Sunlight in Cheshire. The painting remained there until many of the Gallery's pictures were sold at Christie's in June 1958. Its whereabouts remained a mystery until its recent rediscovery.

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