A larger than life shining bronze of Lady Godiva, riding naked on her noble steed - a Salvador Dali sculpture - will be offered for sale with an estimate of £250,000-£400,000 in the Impressionist and Modern Art sale on 23rd June at Bonhams, New Bond Street.
Lady Godiva was conceived in 1976 and first cast in 1984. The offered lot stands almost two metres high and is one of a small number of casts (8, plus 6 proofs). Gigantic butterflies adorn the rider's body and she holds a golden trumpet - a tell-tale Dali symbol.
Lady Godiva was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman and wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who ruled over the Coventry area. The couple were generous benefactors to the religious houses and their names are commemorated in charters and records from the Doomsday book as founders of numerous monasteries. Lady Godiva is named alongside her husband, and appears as the persuasive force behind these acts - a legendary humanitarian.
According to a legend, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering under the Earl's oppressive taxes. She appealed repeatedly to her husband to remove the tolls. Weary of her pleas, he proclaimed he would grant her wish if she rode naked through the city. Taking him at his word, she ordered all inhabitants of Coventry to stay indoors and shutter their windows and rode through the streets of the city, covered only by her long hair. The name "Peeping Tom" originates from versions of this legend in which a man named Tom made a hole in his shutters in order to spy on Lady Godiva and was struck blind.
The legend of the nude ride is first recorded in the 13th century and is testament to how adored the Lady Godiva was by her subjects for generations. After Leofric's death in 1057, Godiva lived on until sometime between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and 1086. She is mentioned in the Doomsday survey as one of the few Anglo-Saxons, and the only woman, to remain a major landholder after the Norman Conquest.
Another of the Impressionist sale highlights is Les oliviers de Cagnes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) which is offered with an estimate of £250,000-£350,000. The work dates from a period of artistic fruition for Renoir who was considered, by the early 20th century, as one of the great artists of the Impressionist movement.
It was painted in 1909 at Renoir's home, Les Collettes, in the South of France. In 1907 Renoir bought the farm which stood on a hillside above the mediaeval town of Cagnes on the Mediterranean coast, where he was captivated with the beauty of his new rural surroundings. This move has been credited with inspiring the artist's joyful return to landscape painting.
Les oliviers de Cagnes was originally owned by Maurice Gangnat, a great friend of the artist and a regular guest at the villa at Cagnes. Gangnat amassed a collection of over 150 of the artist's works by the time of Renoir's death.
Other top lots include Trouville, scène de plage by Eugène Boudin which is estimated to sell for £150,000-£250,000 and Sans titre by Albert Gleizes, a radiant large-format work from 1924 estimated at £200,000-£300,000.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com