Lot 9
  • 9

John William Godward, R.B.A.

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • John William Godward, R.B.A.
  • Dolce far Niente
  • signed J. W. GODWARD and dated 1906 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 14 1/4 by 29 in.
  • 36.2 by 73.7 cm


Mr. Nicholls (acquired at the above sale)
Cooling Galleries, London
Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. Stoneham, England
Marvin and Margaret Katz, Birmingham, Michigan and Naples, Florida  (acquired from the above in 1972)



Vern Grosvenor Swanson, John William Godward, the Eclipse of Classicism, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1997, p. 271, no. 3, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in perfect condition. The canvas is unlined and is well-stretched on its original stretcher. The paint layer is clean and lightly varnished with no retouches. The work should be hung in its current state.
"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

The languid beauty enjoying the sun’s rays in the present work personifies its title, Dolce far Niente.  Godward employed the illustrative Italian phrase (which translates as “beauty doing nothing”) for several compositions in his oeuvre, including two other works sold in these rooms dating from 1897 (April 23, 2010, lot 64, now in a private collection) and 1904 (February 16, 1995, lot 80, now in the the Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection).  Without narrative implications, the viewer is left to linger in this timeless place, rich with luminous surfaces of veined marble and garnet colored, Classically-inspired fabrics softly draped over the body of the maiden, who rests against the plush textures of a leopard pelt. With her dark brown hair spilling over the pearly stone, eyes dreamily unfocused, the model is completely relaxed; the long, curving lines of her upturned arm, hips, and extended legs are echoed in the tops of the Ischian isles along the horizon line, further enhancing the sensual scene.  While an imaginary space, the distinctly Mediterranean vegetation, flowering oleanders, and open vista of the turquoise sea reference the artist’s travels to Italy the year before Dolce far Niente’s execution.  Godward left his London home for the Continent likely for the first time in 1905 (the details of his biography remain notoriously elusive), with sketchbooks suggesting he visited Naples, while his family suspected he travelled to Capri and throughout southern Italy (Swanson, pp. 79-83). 

As with many of the popular images of the early twentieth century Pears, with McLean, made a print the same size as Dolce far Niente available for the purchase price of £115.