Lot 11
  • 11


60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Simeon Solomon
  • Bacchus
  • signed with initials, dated and inscribed l.r.: 1867/ ROMA/E. LONDRA
  • watercolour with bodycolour
  • 50 by 37cm., 19¾ by 14¾in.


Private collection, Surrey by 1984;
Christie’s, London, 11 June 1993, lot 91 where purchased by Seymour Stein


London, Dudley Gallery, Fourth General Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, 1868, no.70;
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, The Sacred and Profane in Symbolist Art, 1969, no.122;
London, Geffrye Museum and Birmingham City Art Gallery, Solomon: A Family of Painters, 1985-6, no.56;
Birmingham City Art Gallery, Munich, Villa Stuck and London, Ben Uri Museum, Love Revealed – Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, 2005, no.92


St John Tyrwhitt, ‘Pictures of the Season’, in Contemporary Review, VIII, 1868, p.340;
Sidney Colvin, ‘English Painters of the Present Day – IV Simeon Solomon’, in Portfolio, March 1870, p.34;
Algernon Charles Swinburne, ‘Simeon Solomon: Notes on his “Vision of Love” and Other Studies’, in The Dark Blue, July 1871;
Simon Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon, 1985, pp.19, 27, 102, 176 illustrated p.34;
Colin Cruise, Love Revealed – Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, 2005, pp.43-44, 136, illustrated p.134;
Allen Staley, The New Painting of the 1860s – Between the Pre-Raphaelite and the Aesthetic Movement, 2011, pp.105-108, illustrated plate 97 p.108


This watercolour is in very good condition. The paper is flat with no signs of cockling. There is a very small scratch on the figures thigh, a small area of foxing close to the top of the thrysus and a small discoloured restoration in the top left corner. The picture may benefit from a light clean. FRAME The picture is contained in an attractive Pre-Raphaelite style frame with receded decoration and roundels in the corners - it is held under glass.
"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

Solomon’s fascination with Bacchus led to the creation of at least three significant pictures inspired by the Roman God of Wine. The first was painted in 1865 and is now lost but the second, an oil from 1867, has become one of Solomon’s best-known pictures (Birmingham City Art Gallery). The oil was exhibited at the Royal Academy whilst the present watercolour, the third of the series, was sent to the Dudley Gallery exhibition at the Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly. It was accompanied by lines from William Morris’ Life and Death of Jason; ‘By thee the unnamed smouldering fire Within our hearts turns to desire, Sweet, amorous, half-satisfied; Through thee the doubtful years untried Seem fair to us an fortunate, In spite of death, in spite of fate.’

appears to have been inspired by a statue in the Vatican Museums of Antinous, the beautiful youth loved by the Emperor Hadrian, dressed as Bacchus. His earliest Bacchic work, the lost picture from 1865 was entitled Antinonius Dionysiacus.

Bacchus was begun in Rome and probably depicts the model referred to many years later by Solomon’s friend Oscar Browning; ‘I do not remember the name of the Roman boy, who was beautiful and quite innocent.’ (Simon Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon, 1985, p.19) According to the inscription it was completed in London, perhaps when the cypress trees were added and the flowering myrtle, a flower sacred in the Jewish religion. It is one of the most sensual depictions of male beauty painted by the Pre-Raphaelite circle, depicting a similar curvaceous eroticism as Rossetti’s paintings of women at this time. As Colin Cruise has suggested ‘… Solomon adds a distinctive touch of melancholy to the erotic appeal of his beautiful Bacchus. In the watercolour, the leopard-skin and drapery seem to slip from the fleshy forms of the torso, the hair is dishevelled, and the god looks pensively downwards. He is not carousing, but seems rather lost in reverie; or we might fantasize that he has just arisen from lovemaking, and looks tenderly down at a lover unseen to us.’ (pp.43-44) We might identify the lover as Ariadne, the Minoan Princess rescued by the God on the island of Naxos after being abandoned by the hero Theseus, whose departure may be signified by the ship on the ocean behind.

‘…the curled and ample hair, the pure splendour of faultless cheek and neck, the leopard-skin and thyrsus, are all of the god, and godlike… but mournful wonderful lips and eyes are coloured with mortal blood and lighted with human vision… In these pictures [the oil and watercolour] some obscure suppressed tragedy of thought and passion and fate seems latent as the vital veins under a clear skin.’

Algernon Charles Swinburne, The Dark Blue, July 1871