The trysting place signed and dated 'J.W. Godward 07' (lower left) oil on canvas 30 x 15 1/4in (76.2 x 38.7cm)
PROVENANCE: E. MacDonald Maguire, Los Angeles, California; purchased from the above by Edwin L. Gleason before June 1916.
John William Godward was among the most significant painters of the late Graeco-Roman subject, during Classicism's twilight and final extinguishing. Some believe he equaled Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema in the depictions of marble and flowers and Frederic Lord Leighton in drapery. Godward sought to portray peace, feminine beauty and ideal perfection by marvelously painting and composing beautiful women in halcyon classical environments. Because of his reclusive personality he was relatively unknown in his day, only to be discovered at the very end of the twentieth century. The artist was living at 410 Fulham Road in London at the time he painted The trysting place, four years before moving to Rome. Most of his classical references came from books such as the Edinburgh Gazette of 1859 where the intimate graffiti inscription on the Pompeian wall behind our pretty maiden in the picture was first published. The original inscription was scrawled on the north wall of the corridor in the theatre complex near Via Stabiana in Pompeii (A. Varone, Erotica Pompeiana: Love Inscriptions on the Walls of Pompeii, Rome: L'Erma-di Bretschneider, 2002, p. 40). The inscription in full reads, "Propero. Vale, mea Sava; fac me ames" which means "I'm hurrying to you! Hello, my Sava. Try and love me." We see that her lover had been at their secret rendezvous and had left this note for her and was bold enough to see no impropriety in using her real proper name. This was probably because they were betrothed, rather than clandestine lovers. Sorry to have missed him, she responds by drawing on the edge of a pilaster a heart containing a stick image of her betrothed. The work is unique in Godward's oeuvre and may be the "answer painting" to his earlier oil of September 1906, Au Rendezvous.
We are grateful to Vern Swanson for confirming the attribution to John William Godward and for his assistance in cataloguing this lot. This picture, not previously recorded in his catalogue raisonné, will be included in his new book on the artist.