Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
- Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A.
- The Three Graces
- inscribed by Anna Alma Tadema (the artist's daughter)
L. Alma-Tadema aat (upper center)
- oil on canvas in five parts (mounted on panel, the largest diamond shaped, with four roundels), in a decorative frame designed by the artist
Top left: The Three Graces of the State: Law, Order and Authority
Top right: The Three Graces of the Home: Mother, Wife and Child
Bottom left: The Three Graces of Religion: Faith, Hope and Charity
Bottom right: The Three Graces of Art: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture
- central canvas: 25 3/4 by 26 in.; 65.4 by 66 cm
- framed: 34 1/2 by 34 1/2 in.; 87.6 by 87.6 cm
Roy Miles, London
Julian Hartnoll, London
Sale: Sotheby's, London, June 20, 1989, lot 35, illustrated
Private Collector (acquired at the above sale)
Thence by descent
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Annual Exhibition, Memorial Section, 1913, no. 1027
Roy Miles Gallery, Paintings for Collectors, November-December 1981, no. 4
Vern Grosvenor Swanson, Alma-Tadema: The painter of the Victiorian vision of the Ancient world, London, 1977, p. 139, Opus CCLI (with location unknown)
Vern Grosvenor Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London, 1990, p. 187-8, no. 199, illustrated p. 368
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I do not greatly favor the idea that art students should travel in order to study the works of the great masters. Should they not rather wait until they have acquired sufficient knowledge and appreciation of their inward selves to profit by works of these masters? I confess, without shame, that on my first visit to Italy I did not see the Rafaels [sic] and the Angelos. I saved them for my second visit in 1876 and I am certain that I viewed those old masters with a fuller appreciation than would have been possible had I made their acquaintance on the previous occasion (as quoted in Swanson, p. 49).
It was on this trip that Alma Tadema would acquire portfolios of photographs and gather and prepare the sketches which would later inform some of his greatest compositions. The four roundels appear to be such oil sketches, preparatory works that might evolve into larger compositions. While no resulting works are known to exist, they act as tangents to the three figures in the center diamond-shaped panel, and are explicitly connected through his allegorical titles: the Three Graces of the State (in the Senate house), of the Home (in the atrium), of Religion (in the catacombs) and of Art (on the scaffolding of a building). The models for the painting were, presumably, Alice Search, the Alma-Tadema family nanny to the left, the artist’s eldest daughter and poet Laurence in the center, and at right is his youngest daughter and artist Anna, who kept the painting in her collection until 1925. With its unique presentation in this elaborate artist-designed frame, The Three Graces is a jewel within Alma Tadema’s oeuvre.
Just as Alma Tadema had found inspiration in Classical sources, so did many of his contemporaries. The allegorical figures and narratives that they mined allowed them to use the body as a place on which to inscribe meaning; in some instances the charge is erotic and in others political. Particularly at the end of the nineteenth century, perhaps as a response to extraordinary change, unrest and technological advancements, attitudes change. The imagery of antiquity espoused by John William Godward (see lot 8), Jean-Léon Gérôme (see lot 4) or the mythological narratives of Evelyn de Morgan (see lot 9), Albert Aublet (see lot 11) or Paul-François Quinsac (see lot 14) compete with scenes drawn from contemporary literature and the allure of the demi-mondaine, like Henri Gervex’s Nana (see lot 22), or from contemporary urban life itself (see Jean Béraud, lots 40 – 44).