The name Carina represents one of the divisions of the constellation Argo. She was also a virgin of the ancient Kingdom of Caria in western Asia Minor. The title suggests not only the purity of devotional virginity, but also the sensuality of the East, considered highly exotic in the Victorian and Edwardian period. However, unlike other classical painters of the time such as Alma-Tadema, Leighton and Poynter who referred more specifically to historical or mythological heroines, Godward's pictures are free of narrative and action and simply concentrate on the beauty of form and color. Carina perfectly exemplifies Godward's superlative skill at depicting the different textures of warm skin tones, cool marble and diaphanous fabric. He depicts a type of feminine beauty rather than a specific identity and focuses instead on graceful sensual form and subtle color harmonies to achieve an aesthetic form of Classicism. Of the small number of painters who contined to paint loosely classical subjects into the 20th Century, Godward was arguably the most successful and accomplished.
The first years of the century saw great prosperity throughout the British Empire. Imperialist interest rose to new heights and drew with it a continued preoccupation with classical Graeco-Roman representation of Empire. Iain Gale wrote, 'The early Victorians believe that in ancient Rome they had found a parallel universe - a flawless mirror of their own immaculate world' ('The Empire Looks Back', Country Life, 30 May 1996, p. 680). This last burst of interest was widespread and deeply rooted, fueled especially by scholars and the industrial nouveau riche. This fervour lasted until the outbreak of World War I and Godward was able to build his career around this niche. He quickly established a reputation for his pictures of beautiful young women in classical settings and his ability to convey with sensitivity and technical mastery the feeling of contrasting textures, flesh, marble, fur and fabrics.
Starting in 1910, Godward made several trips to Rome, attempting to secure housing and a studio for a permanent move. Although dated 1911, it appears that this painting was undertaken in 1910. According to letter no. 160 in the Milo-Turner collection, it was completed before he began one of his most highly considered paintings, Noonday Rest (letter no. 163), which is dated to 1910.
1910 was considered one of the best years for Godward as an artist. Whilst his production level did not increase, the works were of superlative quality.
The first owner of this work was Paul Eugène Cremetti who had taken over the business of Thomas Maclean in 1908 and became Godward's commercial agent.