The present canvas is amongst the largest in Godward's oeuvre, though typical in its studied mixture of technical élan and heady exoticism. It is comparable in scale to the Delphic Oracle of 1899, which was sold by Christie's London on 3 June 1994, lot 153. Both works show an obvious attempt on Godward's part to rival the great established classical painters of his day.
The present painting was hung, according to Blackburn, in the 'place of honour' in Gallery VII when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1897. It is also comparable to an oil of 1900, possibly exhibited at the New Gallery of the same year, no. 255. Entitled The Toilet, it was sold at Christie's in London, on 3 June 1994 (lot 154) for £89,500 and depicts a female figure in a similar pose to our picture but brushing her hair and clothed in a diaphanous robe.
The details of Godward's life are shrouded in mystery. That he became an artist against his family's wishes is scarcely unusual in the nineteenth century: however it was his reclusive nature - he declined invitations to become a member of the Royal Academy and, from 1905, ceased to exhibit at all in England - that has resulted in such a frustrating dearth of information concerning his life and works.
We are grateful to Professor Vern Swanson, of the Springville Museum, Utah, for his help in preparing this entry.