Lot 60
  • 60

John William Godward

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • John William Godward
  • signed J. W. GODWARD. and dated 1912. (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 50 by 31 in.
  • 127 by 78.7 cm


Probably, Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadejas, the Maharajah Jam Sahib of Nawanagar (until 1933)
Sale: Sotheby's, Belgravia, April 9, 1980, lot 46, illustrated
Richard Green, London
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, February 24, 1983, lot 188, illustrated
American West Coast Private Collector (and sold, Sotheby's, New York, May 5, 1999, lot 76, illustrated)
Private Collector


Burlington Magazine, CXXII, February 1980, illustrated plate XLII
Vern G. Swanson, John William Godward: The Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1997, p. 232, no. 20, illustrated p. 98, pl. 76


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting has been lined using glue as an adhesive. The lower half of the lining on the reverse is rather uneven, but it seems only to be the stain used to darken the lining canvas that has become uneven. It is doubtful that there has been any water damage, and the front of the picture shows no surface inconsistency. There are no retouches. The work is cleaned and lightly varnished, and it is in more or less perfect condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

In Godward's A Tryst, young Roman woman dressed in a diaphanous pale yellow toga is seated on a marble terrace, raising her hand to shadow her face against the glare of the Mediterranean sun as she gazes directly out of the picture. The viewer has become the object of her attention, greeted by her open expression, inviting eyes and the faint suggestion of a smile. The beautifully studied flowers that surround her are poppies of varying colors and varieties. Victorian interest in the revival of classicism and ancient Rome, prevalent at the beginning of the twentieth century, promoted the importance of formal and sensual qualities over visual narrative. In Greco-Roman mythology, the red poppy symbolized forgetfulness, sleep and resurrection, being thought to grow along the banks of the river Lethe as it entered Hades. It is not likely Godward's intention to make this Classical allusion and the poppies appear to have been included for decorative rather than allegorical reasons. Here, the flowers have a broader symbolism of beauty and fertility, a botanical parallel with the woman that they surround. 

In 1912, Godward is known to have painted four large canvases of a single model posed on a seaside balcony or amid a garden of oleander and cypresses. In each of these works, including A Tryst, Reverie, Absence makes the Heart Grow Fonder, and By the Wayside, there is an implication of a romantic narrative that gives the paintings an erotic charge, emphasized by flowers in full bloom and ripened fruit. The composition also displays many of the hallmarks of the aesthetics of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, made popular in paintings such as Ask me no More (1886, private collection), Pleading (1876, Guildhall Art Gallery, London) and Welcome Footsteps (1883, private collection). The oleander was a favourite flower of Tadema's and appears prominently in Love's Jewelled Fetter (1895, private collection), Unconscious Rivals (1893, Bristol City Art Gallery) and was the subject of An Oleander (1882, private collection). Despite the influences that Godward no doubt absorbed, his art had a distinctive style of his own. His vision of the Antique age was of a golden utopia, a world of marble terraces by the ocean where the sun is warm enough to persuade his earthly goddesses to eschew labor while surrounded by flowers and azure sea.

According to Dr. Vern Swanson, who wrote the definitive study of Godward's work and oeuvre, A Tryst was likely owned by Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja, the Maharajah Jam Sahib of Nawanagar (1872-1933) who played cricket for England and is regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. Although he was from the family of Jadejas who claimed direct descent from Lord Krishna, 'Ranji' was an Anglophile with a great passion for British art and who was collecting at a time when the likes of Frederic, Lord Leighton, Frank Dicksee, John William Waterhouse, Marcus Stone, and Godward were little appreciated. The Maharajah amassed a large collection of Victorian pictures during the first few decades of the twentieth century including several paintings by Godward.