This newly re-attributed drawing has long been separated from the artist’s original title for it, appearing in A.L. Baldry’s 1930 monograph simply as The Hammock (girl reclining). However, it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879 as 'Sara, belle d'indolence, etc.' The subject is taken from Victor Hugo’s (1802-1885) poem of the same name, from Les Orientales (1829) and translated as Zara, the Bather. Les Orientales was a collection of poems inspired by the Greek War of Independence, all loosely focused on the theme of liberty. Sara inspired many artists, including Alexandre Marie Colin (1798-1873) and Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), and the poem was set to music by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869).
The first verse of the poem reads:
In a swinging hammock lying,
Zara, lovely indolent,
O'er a fountain's crystal wave
There to lave
Her young beauty – see her bent.
Although the drawing appears to be a departure from Holiday’s more immediately recognisable historical subjects with its Aesthetic sensibility, its literary context places it more easily within his oeuvre. Visually, it clearly relates to an 1862 watercolour, The Garden of the Muses (Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 31.004). In that watercolour, three groups of three diaphonously draped muses gather in a garden, around a small square ornamental pond, while stylised lilies grow up the wall behind them.