EDWIN LONGSDEN LONG, R.A.
signed with monogram and dated 1887 l.r.
oil on canvas
127 by 86.5cm., 50 by 34in.
The canvas is lined providing a secure and stable support. Some occasional faint but stable traces of craquelure visible in lower half of the figure.
Ultraviolet light reveals an opaque varnish that makes the surface difficult to read conclusively. There appear to be some retouchings to the base of the harp, a small spot in the lower right corner and some small areas to the frame edges.
Held in a gilt plaster frame, possibly the original.
"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."
Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, where purchased by James Reckitt, 1887 (£750);
Christie's, London, 18 July 1958, lot 130;
Gifted to the present owners' great grandfather and thence by descent
London, Thomas Agnew and Sons, 1887, no.3
Austin Chester, 'The Art of Edwin Long, R.A., Windsor Magazine, February 1908, pp.332-350;
Mark Bills, Edwin Longsden Long, London, 1998, no.238, pp.160-161, illustrated
"What harp shall sigh o’er Freedom’s grave? Oh, Erin! thine! –
Dear harp of my country! in darkness I found thee,
The cold chains of silence had hung o’er thee long,
When proudly, my own Island harp, I unbound thee,
And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song!
The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness
Have weakened thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill;
but so oft has thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness,
That even in thy mirth will steal from thee still."
Thomas Moore (1779-1852), Dear Harp of My Country
This verse was included alongside the painting at its exhibition in 1887.
The present work belongs to a series of twenty paintings by Edwin Long depicting personifications of the countries of the British Empire. Painted between 1886-7, the series was commissioned by London dealer Thomas Agnew and Sons. Long represented Ireland as a beautiful woman playing a harp, with a corsage of shamrocks pinned to her dress - two universal and enduring symbols of Ireland. In a subtle detail, a shamrock pattern forms the brocade of her dress, and decorates the harp. This symbolism, combined with her fair skin and grace, embodies the perception of idealised Irish identity and beauty in Victorian Britain.