Details & Cataloguing

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art


Sir Joseph Noel Paton, R.S.A.
signed with monogram and dated 1879 l.l., further signed and inscribed with the title on a label attached to the reverse
oil on panel, circular
62 by 62cm., 24¼ by 24½in.
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Purchased from the artist, 29 July 1882, by Sir George McCulloch by whom loaned to Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, by 1895;
Sotheby’s, London, 19 June 1984, lot 28;
Private collection;
Sotheby’s, London, 2 November 1994, lot 175, where purchased by Seymour Stein


Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1880, no.255


Art Journal, 1880, p.93;
The Magazine of Art, 1880, p.433;
Alfred T. Story, 'Sir Noel Paton: His Life and Work', in Art Journal, 1895, p.113;
M.H. Noel-Paton and J.P. Campbell, Noel Paton 1821-1901, 1990, p.101

Catalogue Note

‘Endymion sleeps. Upon his upturned brow,
The gift of Jupiter - eternal youth
Lies fresh as leaves that look upon the spring
But one day old.
And his sleep heavy eyes
Are closed and all is silence, save the heart
That still is beating ruddy strokes of life,
For that fair vision and that one desire
To shape itself and light up all his soul.
There is no stir on Latmos; every star
Can hear him breathing; for they too have seen
The dream beneath his eyelids’. 

Alex Anderson Surfaceman

Joseph Noel Paton’s painting was based on the lines of his fellow Scotsman Alexander Anderson, who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Surfaceman’. According to his journals, Paton worked on the picture from December 1878 until 13 January 1879 when he broke off due to illness. The work was completed in time for the exhibition at the Scottish Royal Academy in 1880. 

In Greek mythology the Aeolian huntsman Endymion was said to have lived on Mount Latmos near Miletus in the Anatolian region of Caria. His beauty was seen by Selene, the Titan Goddess of the Moon, daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of the Sun-God Helios and Eos, the Goddess of the Dawn. She fell in love with Endymion and pleaded with his father Zeus to bestow eternal youth upon the boy so that the immortal Goddess could be with him forever, visiting him at night to admire his beauty as he slept. She bore fifty of his children.

The model for Endymion was Paton’s nineteen-year-old son Frederick (1861-1914). He later became Director General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics for India, but as an athletic youth with a fine physique, he often posed for his father. On one occasion Frederick was painted as Lucifer because his father felt the Devil should be beautiful if viewers of the picture were to believe that he could tempt those from the path of righteousness. In The Dream of Latmos Frederick was dressed in the leopard-skin of a hunter and carrying a spear. He is surrounded by honeysuckle on the hillside where Selene approaches as the sun falls below the mountains. She has her quiver and bow over her shoulder and clutches her heart as she looks upon Endymion’s tranquil face. She is lit by the luminous orb of a pale moon, which is reflected by the circular format of the painting.

In a drawing made by Paton twenty-six years earlier (sold in these rooms, 10 March 1995) the subject is more eroticised as the naked Endymion is approached by the nude figure of Selene carried in the arms of a cloaked figure symbolising darkness.

In 1881 George Frederick Watts painted the sleeping Endymion with Selene looming over him in the shape of the crescent moon. Two years later Walter Crane painted Endymion on mount Latmos (Dundee Art Gallery) and in 1902 Edward Poynter painted the first of several versions of the same subject (Manchester City Art Gallery).

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art