Unlike Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Frederic, Lord Leighton and Edward Poynter, whose half-length portraits of Grecian beauties almost always explicitly portray historical or mythological heroines, Godward's pictures are less formal and represent a classical type of idealized and dream-like feminine beauty. The present lot bears the title Eurypyle, which either refers to Euryale, a queen amongst the amazons (as Godward's catalogue raisonné suggests, p. 245) or to Eurypyle, daughter of Thespius and Megamede, who bore Heracles a son, Archedicus. The ambiguity is fitting and consistent with Godward's other works, but it is more likely that he presents this zaftig beauty in diaphanous dress as a sort of Venus or mother figure.
Regardless of specificity, Godward uses his subject as a showcase for his astonishing virtuosity with his materials. She stands in front of a wall of four masterfully rendered slabs of marble. This is Godward's preferred ground, earning him the handle: "the master of marble." He certainly uses it for its references to the classical period, but also for the undulating forms that marble presents and as an opportunity for an academic exploration of color. He has expertly painted a web of chromatic variations of gray, yellow, gold, green, umber and white, and effortlessly maintained a perceptibly neutral background for the subject herself. She, too, is an exquisite study of textures: warmth radiates from her face against the cold marble, which is matched by the soft crepe-like and translucent undulations of her gown, gathered in places while clinging to her body in others; the soft feathers of her fan contrast with its hard metal handle; all of the elements are grounded against the marble by an ethereal shadow that seems to dissolve in an omnipresent light.
As far as is known, Godward only produced five paintings in 1920, of which this is one, due to health concerns and the instability of his artistic residence. He was living in Rome at the Villa Strohl-Fern, which was becoming increasingly dilapidated and would prompt him to leave the sensual inspriation of Italy the following year, and return to his native England.
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