Outside the Gate of Pompeii proclaims the profound effect that Pompeii had on the artist. It is almost a souvenir of his trip to this ancient city. He was undoubtedly overwhelmed by the streets, tombs, houses and temples of this time-capsule of a city. Once Godward had finally settled into his work he resumed his standard painting methods and motifs with a greater maturity and sophistication. Godward returned to his 410 Fulham Road address in London, probably toward the end of 1905, but his Italian experience left an indelible mark upon his consciousness and lured him to move to Rome in 1911.
On the left of the painting is seen only the second elderly man in the artist’s oeuvre (the other being Eighty and Eighteen of 1898). He sits on a marble exedra seat watching pigeons. On the lower left sitting on the curb of the street is a beautiful flower seller in rosy-hued toga and crimson stola, adjusting her sandal. In the central foreground is a young mother in red dress and purple tunic holding a fan and the hand of her daughter. The child is dressed in greed and holds a large flowering oleander stem and seems to be engaged with the flower seller.
The setting for Godward's painting was based upon surviving archaelogical remains at Pompeii. The road is that leading from the forum to the Villa dei Misteri on the outskirts of the city, which is lined with family tombs. At the top of this street was a triumphal arch similar to the one depicted by Godward and the half-moon-shaped exedra with lion-leg decoration still survives.
We are grateful to Vern Swanson for his assistance with the cataloguing of this lot which will be included in his forthcoming monograph.
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