THOMAS RALPH SPENCE
1855 - 1903
THE DISCIPLES OF SAPPHO
signed T.R.S and dated 1896 (lower left)
oil on canvas
24¾ by 59⅜ in.
62.9 by 150.8 cm
Inscribed by a later hand at lower left: 'Copyright [...] Fr. Hanfstaengl'
Lined. The work presents well overall and the colors remain bright. There are two small areas of bumping and pulling of the canvas in the figure group at back left; and in the foreground near the woman in a yellow kerchief. There are a few isolated areas of faint craquelure and a minor diagonal surface scratch over the man in red at far left. Under UV: varnish fluoresces green unevenly. There is an approximately 2 1/2 inch diagonal area of inpainting over the proper left foot of the man in red at far left (partially visible to the naked eye); and a few scattered, finely applied small retouches visible in the foreground and front-most figure group and on the white marble wall above the musician at right.
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD “AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE.
Robert C. Woolley, New York (and sold, his sale, Sotheby's, New York, January 24, 1997, lot 57, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale
London, Royal Academy, 1896, no. 599
Royal Academy Pictures, London, 1896, p. 165, illustrated
Painted in 1896, The Disciples of Sappho was shown at that summer’s Royal Academy, where the spirit of Frederic Lord Leighton, who died in January of the same year, pervaded the Summer exhibition rooms. Inspired by the classical architecture, Mediterranean surroundings and antique dress seen in works by Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, such as his 1881 Sappho and Alcaeus (The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), Spence depicts the poet Sappho, her hair tied up with red ribbons, in a sweeping classical amphitheater, surrounded by rapt disciples in pastels and virginal whites and classical columns.
Thomas Ralph Spence was born in Yorkshire, though an apprenticeship with a firm of architects brought him to London. While he became known for his landscapes and historical subjects, he continued to use his architectural knowledge in his compositions. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876 and continued until his death in 1903. He was also responsible for the decorative paintings in Manchester Cathedral.