A Pompeian Garden shows a girl in a pink gown, purple stola and red ribbons, sitting in a sumptuous atrium garden. Godward has caught the delicacy of her gesture as she feeds the goldfish from an abalone shell cradled in her left hand. The fountain basin is marble, and the fountain itself is a griffin which extends to an ornate cornucopia. The griffin has a lion's head, horse's forelegs, ram's horns and crenellated mane. Godward's careful brushwork replicates the skill of the carving; particularly fine are the curves of the lion's muzzle and the orderly range of feathers in his wings.
A Pompeian Garden, which has also been known as Pompeian Interior, shows the artist working at the height of his powers. Despite the intricacy of its decorative scheme, Godward still conveys the airiness of this lofty space, which is further implied by the scale of the fluted columns. The entrance at the left offers us a tantalising glimpse of the Italian landscape. The dark red of the wall frescoes sets off the creamy stone and marble. The flower bed acts as an antidote to the strict classical ornament. It is a panapoly of fine poppies and wild flowers. The leaves in the front bed, their ends drying to a deep gold, are realised with particular care. The criss-cross effects of shadow, reflection, and marble strata adds to the complexity of this composition whilst not detracting from its clarity and strength.
Godward, like fellow neo-classicist Alma-Tadema, incorporated historical details into his work. The cornucopia in A Pompeian Garden, for example, recalls the capitols on the columns at the Persian temple at Persepolis. The interior resembles that depicted in Feeding Time (1899); and a comparable lily pond features in one of Godward's most famous paintings, Dolce Far Niente (see exhibition catalogue, Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection, London, Royal Academy, 2003, no. 140). A late work entitled A Lily Pond (1917) shows a pensive girl in a similar interior; whilst the statue of young Hercules, seen to the far right of the present picture, features more prominently.
We would like to thank Professor Vern Swanson for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.