Waiting for the procession signed and dated 'J.W. Godward '90' (upper left) oil on canvas 42 1/4 x 28in (107.3 x 71.1cm)
PROVENANCE: with Thomas McLean, London, sold 1890; with Percy Polak Ltd., London, sold August 1949; with Marshall Fields, Chicago, acquired October 1949 to January 1950; Father Sauer, Chicago; Lucille Katyll, Chicago, acquired from the above, 1960s; Thence by descent to the present owner.
EXHIBITED: London, Thomas McLean, Winter Exhibition, 1890-91, no. 43
LITERATURE: Thomas McLean (ec) Godward inventory list 1890-91, Milo-Turner collection Illustrated London News, 15 Nov 1890, p. 467; illus. Percy Polak, his files
At the time the present painting was executed, the artist was painting at St. Leonard's Studio, St. Leonard's Terrace on Smith Street in Chelsea, just around the corner from noted author Bram Stoker. The painting was the largest and most expensive (£90) painting sold by Godward to date. The Illustrated London News reviewed the McLean Gallery's Winter Exhibition, selecting this work for special criticism: "Mr. Godward, who follows in some respects the footsteps of Mr. Alma-Tadema, is attempting to work on too large a canvas such a slight theme as Waiting for the Procession." However, the painting is one of the artist's seminal canvases from his early period, a rare multi-figured composition that seems to anticipate most of the artist's mature style, subjects and technique.
Two black-haired patrician Roman beauties await a procession to pass by. The first lady is standing beside a marble bas-relief of a dancing bacchante. She is dressed in a light green-blue tunic with a brown stola and a brilliant red ribbon about her head. She gazes directly toward the viewer as she holds a peacock fan. The other woman holds a bamboo fan to shield the light from her face. She sits atop a marble ledge on a large leopard skin. To the right in the garden we see colored poppies with pink oleander on the other side of a red wall. In the distance is a hilly landscape with a rare, for Godward, cloudy sky.
Vern Swanson has described the present picture as perhaps the most important early Godward. We are grateful to him for confirming the attribution to John William Godward and for his assistance in cataloguing this lot. The painting will be prominently illustrated and featured in Mr. Swanson's forthcoming book on the artist.