Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.


Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.

Details & Cataloguing

Victorian & Edwardian Art, Including Masterpieces


Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
1836 - 1912
signed and dated l.r.: L Alma Tadema 71
oil on panel
89.5 by 52cm.: 35¼ by 20½in.
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Commissioned by Ernest Gambart in 1871;
Christie's, 9 February 1874, lot 141, where bought by John Graham, Skelmorlie Castle, Ayrshire;
Sir Angus Holden, 1st Baron Holden, of Nun Appleton House, Bolton Percy, Yorkshire by 1882, and sold by him Christie's, 18 July 1913, lot 22;
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London;
M. Newman, London by whom sold Christie's, 2 December 1955, lot 130, purchased by 'Waters';
Sotheby's, 13 May 1959, lot 81, purchased by 'Fielding';
H.S. Waldron, by whom sold Christie's, 9 October 1959, lot 60, purchased by 'Legers';
Leger Galleries, London;
James Cotes Gallery, New York, March 1961;
Allen Funt, New York by whom sold Sotheby's, Belgravia, 6 November 1973, lot 11, purchased by The Fine Art Society, London where it remained until 1977;
Practice Development Associates, Lafayette, California;
Dr. James Jackson, Klamath Falls, Oregon, by whom bequeathed to Gordon Jackson, Toronto in 1979;
Sotheby's, New York, 24 October 1996, lot 107 where purchased by the present owner


London, French Gallery, Eighteenth Annual Exhibition, 1871, no.38;
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Winter Exhibition: The Works of L. Alma-Tadema, 1882, no.84;
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Spring Exhibition, 1914, no.9;
New York, Robert Isaac Gallery, Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1962, no.3;
Palm Beach, Florida, The Society of the Four Arts, English Paintings of the Victorian Era: A Loan Exhibition, 1966, no. 2;
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Victorians in Togas: Paintings by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema from the Collection of Allen Funt, 1973, no.11;
Sapporo, Japan, Mitsukoshi Department Store, European Traditional Painting, 1976, no.189;
Utah, Brigham Young University, 1979, no.16


Illustrated London News, 15 April 1871, p.370;
James Dafforne, 'The Works of Laurence Alma-Tadema', in Art Journal, XXVI, 1875, p.12;
Carel Vosmaer, Alma-Tadema Catalogue, c.1885, no.106;
Helen Zimmern, 'L. Alma-Tadema Royal Academician: His Life and Works', in Art Journal, Christmas edition, 1886, p.14;
Percy Cross Standing, Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema O.W., R.A., 1905, p.61;
Rudolf Dirks, 'The Later Works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.' in Art Journal, Christmas Edition, 1910, p.27;
New York Times, 19 July 1913, p.4;
Christopher Forbes, Victorians in Togas: Paintings by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema from the Collection of Allen Funt, 1973, illus. p.17;
Vern G. Swanson, Alma-Tadema, The Painter of the Victorian Vision of the Ancient World, 1977, p.136;
Vern G. Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1990, no.132, p.162, illus. p.333

Catalogue Note

'With ever increasing confidence, by the 1870s Alma-Tadema was painting some of his most complex pictures, brimming with archaeological paraphernalia.' (Russell Ash, Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, 1989, p.24)

The setting is the interior of a Pompeian temple, where a young priestess bedecked in flowers has been distracted from the festivities taking place in the sunlit courtyard where a porphyry lion fountains water into a lily pond. She stops, the cymbals in her hands frozen and silent as she gazes at the marble altar, or cippus and the procession behind her is forgotten briefly. The marble Satyr in the Uffizzi, Florence whilst the brazier and altar were based upon photographs of relics at the Museo Archaelogico in Naples. The votive painting hung on the elaborately decorated pillar is based on a Pompeian fresco depicting the Triumph of Amphitrite.

In the Temple demonstrates Tadema's fresher and more colourful approach to painting in the 1870s. The pose of the female figure was suggested by that of the principal priestess in another depiction of temple-life The Vintage Festival of 1870 (Hamburger Kunstalle). This was one of the last pictures completed by Tadema before he moved to London and it is likely that Tadema's agent Ernest Gambart commissioned In the Temple as a more condensed version of the 1870 picture to be sold to Tadema's emerging London clientele. 

In the Temple was commissioned by Ernest Gambart; 'The most influential art dealer of the last century' (Vern Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1990, p.29.) Gambart had purchased his first pictures from Tadema in 1864 marking the beginning of a relationship that launched the artist's career and assured his financial success. In 1871 Tadema painted ten works, all commissioned by Gambart. 1871 was a pivotal year for Tadema; he abandoned Brussels for life in London prompted by the onset of the Franco-Prussian war and married for the second time.

The first private owner of In the Temple was the prosperous Scottish merchant John Graham, founder of W.& J. Graham & Co., which specialised in cotton spinning, imported dry goods from India and traded port wine by which it is still known today. He was the uncle of the better-known William Graham the avid collector of Italian Old Masters and patron of Burne-Jones and of Rossetti. John Graham himself owned important works by the Pre-Raphaelites, including examples by Rossetti and Holman Hunt and  Millais' Sir Isumbras at the Ford (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) although his great passion was for work by Turner, Linnell, Landseer, Gainsborough and Reynolds. George Redford described John Graham as 'a very well-known figure at Christie's for many years, a spare, contented-looking man in black frock coat and necktie, wearing a soft felt hat, always ready with his invitation, "Ye are welcome to Skelmorlie, happy to show ye "the peectures".'

When the picture was exhibited at Tadema's first major retrospective held at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1882 it had passed into the collection of Sir Angus Holden, 1st Baron Holden (1833-1912) a former mayor of Bradford. In more recent times the painting was owned by Allen Funt (1914-1999) the American television producer and director (best known for his popular television show, Smile, You're on Candid Camera) and was among the thirty-five works by Tadema from his collection that formed the landmark sale at Sotheby's Belgravia in 1973. 

Victorian & Edwardian Art, Including Masterpieces