Lot 11
  • 11

John Simmons

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Simmons
  • The Morning Star
  • signed l.r.: J. Simmons
  • watercolour with bodycolour
  • 23.5 by 31 cm., 9¼ by 12¼in.


Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumbria University, Hidden Treasures, The Sena Collection, 2007, not numbered

Catalogue Note

'One of the chief attractions of fairy painting for the mid-Victorians was that it made possible highly realistic and erotic pictures of female nudes. This was the type of fairy picture in which Simmons specialised.'  (Christopher Wood, Fairies in Victorian Art, 2000, p. 8) 

John Simmons was a Bristol-based painter whose main output was portraiture, but who painted a series of beautiful and deliciously erotic watercolours of female fairies. The majority of these watercolours were painted in the 1860s and depict scenes from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. His Titania is in the collection of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and was included in the exhibition Victorian Fairy Painting at the Royal Academy in 1997-1998.

The present painting appears to depict Eosphorus, the incarnation of Venus at dawn, wreathed in a gauze of transparent fabric, like the mists that veil the world in the morning and bearing a wand of starlight. Over the crest of a hill, rises the orb of the dawning sun casting a pale light over the flowing golden tresses of the floating nubile maiden in her celestial flight. This light plays provocatively over the curves of her bare shoulders and buttocks whilst the crisply delineated petals of the honeysuckle seem to reach out towards her as she flies. Morning dew has gathered on the voluptuous budding rose and along the stems of the other plants, showing the tininess of the young fairy. The watercolour may have been conceived as a pendant to The Evening Star described by Christopher Wood as 'Another Victorian Venus reposes among roses and honeysuckle.' (ibid Wood, p. 129) 

The Greeks believed that the planet Venus that appeared in the morning was a different celestial object than the Venus that was visible in the evening. Thus they had two names for the planet, Eosphorus (meaning 'bearer of light') being the name of the Venus of morning and Hesperus being the name of the planet in the evening. Each had its own deity and it was not until the adoption of the Babylonian idea of the two planets being one, that the two goddesses began to be associated as one deity, Venus. It was then that she became identified by the Wandering Star, that appeared at dawn and again during the gloaming.