George Frederick Watts, OM, RA (British 1863-1919)
Provenance: Lilian and Michael Chapman and thence by descent
Aurora was the goddess of Dawn. She was the sister of Helios the sun-god and rose every morning to lead him into the heavens. She was often depicted standing mourning her son Memnon who was killed by Achilles in the Trojan war; the morning dew was said to be the tears that she shed for him.
Watts worked on several versions of Aurora and there is a plaster model of Heroic proportions in the permanent collection at the Watts Gallery in Compton. There was a second version which failed to satisfy him and he finally destroyed it. A planned figure in gold and ivory was never executed probably due to the cost, but his enthusiasm for the subject was made clear in correspondence with Rickards in August 1879, when he wrote: "When you come to town I should like to show you a statue heroic size which I shall call Aurora unveiling, in which I have endeavoured to combine the utmost power and grandeur of form with light springiness."
The model for the figure was his favourite Long Mary and our bronze was probably cast sometime between 1868 and 1880, at a time when Watts was becoming increasingly interested in sculpture and had a new sculpture studio constructed in the garden of Little Holland House. There are various casts of heads connected with Aurora at The Watts Gallery, as well as a number of rough drawings connected with the subject. His painting 'Dawn' of 1885-86 is very similar to the statue in design.