Lot 42
  • 42

John William Godward, R.B.A.

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John William Godward, R.B.A.
  • The Tigerskin (Sewing Girl)
  • signed and dated u.l.: J.W.Godward .1889.
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 77cm., 18 by 30in.


Sold through Godward's agent Thomas McLean, London in 1889 for £85;
M. Newman, London, sold 7 February 1973 to Hartnoll & Eyre, London;
Roy Miles Fine Paintings, London, where purchased by the present owner in 1977


Vern Swanson, John William Godward - The Eclipse of Classicism, 1997, p.177, cat.no.1889.22, illustrated p.36 colour plate 7


The canvas has been lined. There are some fine areas of craquelure otherwise the work appears in good overall condition. Under ultraviolet there is some retouching to the extreme bottom edge due to frame rubbing, some small spots near the top right corner and a fine line of retouching to the sky corresponding to a stretcher mark. Some minor specks to the mosaic. Held in a Watts-style gilt plaster frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The setting is a sunlit terrace of marble and mosaic where a pale-skilled Roman maiden has found a cool place to sit beside a water cistern in the shadow of the building. She is embroidering a long crimson ribbon, perhaps for her hair or as a tie for her toga. She is dressed in a gown of deep green material and is seated on a tigerskin which adds to the exoticism of the Classical scene. On the steps to the garden another girl is seated looking out across the azure waters of the ocean, the waves of which can be seen breaking on the beach below. Dating from 1889 The Tigerskin is a beautiful example of the influence that Alma-Tadema had upon Godward's pictures at this time. Unlike his later pictures which depict lone women in rather formulaic Classical surrounds dressed in diaphanous gowns, Godward's pictures of the 1880s and 1890s convey more pathos and seem to express a genuine desire to recreate the ancient past for a purpose beyond decoration. In these paintings we feel that Godward wanted to depict convincingly realistic scenes of everyday Roman life, rather than simply paint beauty studies. There is often a sense of expectation or suspense, as though the women are waiting for a lover to appear. The sun is always shining, the flowers are always in full bloom and the women are eternally young.

In the 1880s, Godward almost exclusively employed Italian models for his recreations of Roman life and the model for The Tigerskin is almost certainly the same girl that appears in Waiting for an Answer of the same year, The Engagement Ring and Ianthe of 1888, An Idle Hour of 1890 and both women in The Sweet Siesta of a Summer Day of 1891. Italian models were particularly sought after by artists wanting physical types suitable for depictions of Mediterranean life and because of the vogue for paintings of Roman and Greek antiquity among artists who lived in Kensington, the area also became populated by families of Italian models. Often entire families made their living as models and the families of Mancini, Antonelli, Cervi and d'Inverno became famous as the finest models in the country. Sadly the name of Godward's model is not known but it is clear that she was a professional model as her features are recognisable in a number of contemporary works by another painter of classical subjects, Herbert Draper who lived close to Godward at Pembroke Studios. When The Tigerskin was painted Godward's studio was at the newly-built Bolton Studios on Gilson Road in Kensington where Henry Ryland and George Lawrence Bulleid also painted pictures of women in Greek togas in marble settings.