Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
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Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)

A Young Musician employed in the Temple Service during the Feast of the Tabernacles, later called Hosanna

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
A Young Musician employed in the Temple Service during the Feast of the Tabernacles, later called Hosanna
signed with monogram and dated '3/61' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23½ x 18 in. (59.7 x 45.7 cm)
Thomas Edward Plint; Christie's, London, 7 March 1862, lot 261 (52 gns to Gambart).
J.F.Hutton, Victoria Park, Manchester, by 1887.
Mrs. Charles Bayley, The Glen, Broughton Park, Manchester, by 1906.
Times, 13 May 1861, p. 6
Athenaeum, 25 May 1861, p. 698.
Art Journal, 1861, p. 196.
S. Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon, 1984, pp. 94 & 175.
London, Royal Academy, 1861, no. 493.
Manchester, Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, no. 328 (entitled Hosanna), lent by J.F Hutton.
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters of the British School, 1906, no. 116 (entitled Hosanna), lent by Mrs. Charles Bayley.
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Lot Essay

The majority of Solomon's early paintings and drawings are based on themes from the Talmud, in particular The Song of Solomon, whose sonorous and sensual ritualism appealed to the young artist. His first Academy exhibit was a drawing entitled Isaac Offered and he continued to exhibit biblical scenes until 1865. A Young Musician employed in the Service during the Feast of Tabernacles is a beautiful exploration of a remote historical epoch and of the new and progressive Aesthetic style of painting, and in this sense it contrasted with Isaac Offered and The Mother of Moses, shown in 1860 which had both depicted specific incidents. Solomon had been brought up in the Jewish community of the East End of London and as a child he attended synagogue and his familiarity with Jewish religious ritual made pictures such as A Young Musician employed in the Service during the Feast of Tabernacles very personal and poignant images. In The Richmond Papers Sir William Blake Richmond commented on Solomon's early designs inspired by the Hebrew Bible: 'no one but a Jew could have conceived or expressed the depth of national feeling which lay under the strange, remote forms of the archaic people whom he depicted and whose passions he told with a genius entirely unique.' His move towards classical subjects from 1865 coincided with the fading of his Hebrew beliefs in favour of the then fashionable Oxford Movement towards Roman Catholicism. However, he never totally abandoned his faith and the imagery of the Old Testament. Reynolds noted: 'The sincerity and archaic remoteness to be found in his Hebrew paintings stems directly from a profound understanding of his racial heritage. His work in this tradition is often considered to out-shine that of his later allegorical pictures.' (S. Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon, 1985, p. 11).

This oil is the culmination of several studies and drawings of a figure playing an archaic and richly decorated harp. Solomon exhibited an elaborate pen drawing entitled Babylon hath been a golden cup (Birmingham City Art Gallery) in 1859. The following year he undertook a multi-figured ink drawing (ex. Lord Houghton collection) which included a figure of a musician in profile with his head bowed and with his harp resting against his cheek. He also completed a drawing entitled A Jewish Musician in the Temple (Huntingdon Library, California) which is a study both for the oil and for an engraving for the Bible that the Dalziel brothers were contemplating publishing and which was eventually printed in 1881. The oil and the engraving share a similar background and fabric detail, although they are in reverse.

The main elements of the painting were described by F.G. Stephens in the Athenaeum in his review of the 1861 exhibition: 'A youth, of the highest Jewish type, is seen bearing the immemorial ten-stringed harp, such as we find sculptured on the Ninevite bas-reliefs. From its construction not allowing strength against a high tension of the chords, this must have been a low-noted instrument. We may imagine the sweet pulsings of the music as the player's slender fingers draw the strings.' He went on to praise his development 'Mr Simeon Solomon [was] rapidly developing into a fine artist, coming out of the extravagancies and exuberant freaks of execution he at one time indulged in' and suggested that this was undoubtedly 'a work remarkable for sweetness of expression and solid execution.' The Times approved of its religious content, 'We commend Mr S. Solomon for his hearty nationality. He paints Jewish subjects, as a Jew should, with evident reverence and delight in recalling the mystery and greatness of the chosen people.' He concluded, 'This is a very impressive and noble figure, not marred by the ugliness in which Mr Solomon has sometimes appeared to revel.' The critic for the Art Journal also commented on the religious aspect, considering it 'redolent of deep and pious feeling.' The painting was bought by one of Solomon's patrons, Mr Thomas Edward Plint, a Leeds stockbroker and collector of Pre-Raphaelite works. Plint died shortly after its purchase and the painting was sold at Christie's in 1862, where it was bought by the picture dealer Ernest Gambart.

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