Dimensions: (unframed) 20.00 x 32.00 ins
50.80 x 81.28 cms
Signature: Lower right
Medium: Oil on canvas
Seated upon a marble bench, Godward has depicted a captivating Greek or Roman beauty, who softly stares out towards the distance, relaxing on a warm summer’s day. The sitter, known as ‘Dolcissmia’ has perfectly soft, rosy cheeks, plump lips and a glowing complexion. Her graceful pose adds to her sense of beauty and aesthetic perfection as does Godward’s sensual rendering of textures and harmonious colouring used throughout the canvas. From the coolness of the marble to the warm blush of the girl’s expectant lips, she is glamourous, youthful and sultry. The secluded nature of this marble seat evokes the probability of a secret rendezvous, where the maiden seated waited in tranquillity for her suitor.
Her classical robes create a sense of exotic sensuality by recalling the smouldering courtesans of the ancient world such as Helen of Troy, Phryne and Campaspe. Painted during Godward’s Italian period, the artist has added a greater proportion of landscape elements to his composition while decreasing the scale of the central figure, a trend that carried over to his later watercolours.
Notably, Dolcissima’s beauty and appeal is emphasised when contrasted against the cool, hard marble that she sits on. This work is representative of the work of the group of painters sometimes called the “Marble” School, with the classical setting calling back to Ancient Greece, depicting her as a Hellenic goddess. Inspired by the work of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, John William Godward (1861-1922), amongst others, painted subjects which harked back to the Classical age. The Ancient worlds of Greece and Rome were viewed as a past idyll, an age of beauty and certainty.
This work was painted in Rome in the Villa Strohl-Fern, which was a group of artists’ studios to where Godward had absconded in 1911. It was here that the artist lived with the sitter who was his favourite model, however, this move scandalised his family as a result. The model is possibly the ‘Dolcissima’ that Russell Flint met when he visited Godward, as she is featured in many of Godward’s other works of that date.