Ovid told the story of Andromeda in Metamorphoses
, one of the most fertile sources of classical inspiration for nineteenth century artists. She was said to be the beautiful daughter of king Cepheus of Aethiopia, whose mother Cassiopeia angered Poseidon by claiming that Andromeda was more lovely than the Nereids. Her mother's hubris condemned Andromeda to be chained to rocks on the seashore and left as a sacrifice to a sea-monster to appease the gods. Fortunately for her, she was seen by Perseus flying overhead on the winged horse Pegasus, who turned the creature to stone using the magic of the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa. He saved Andromeda and was granted her hand in marriage as a reward.
Spencer-Stanhope's friends Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones designed ambitious paintings depicting Andromeda, the latter painter's style being more suitable for the subject. Rossetti was not confident painting nudes and would not have attempted the subject of Andromeda bound to the rocks, favouring a depiction of a later event in the story where Perseus showed Andromeda the head of the Gorgon reflected in the water of a fountain, after their marriage. This composition he titled Aspecta Medusa
and he made numerous beautiful drawings for it in the mid-1860s but a painting of the subject did not materialise because Rossetti's patron was worried about the gruesome subject of a severed head. Burne-Jones was able to paint the same subject in 1886 as The Baleful Head
(Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart) and managed to create a beautiful image. Indeed Burne-Jones painted an ambitious series of pictures depicting the story of Perseus and Andromeda. However Whilst Burne-Jones pictured Andromeda bound to the rocks in two of his pictures The Rock of Doom
and The Doom Fulfilled
(both Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart) both include Andromeda's saviour Perseus and do not capture Andromeda's desolation and loneliness. Leighton also painted Andromeda about to be set free by the hero in his Perseus and Andromeda
of 1891 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) as did Edward Poynter in one of the decorations painted for Lord Wharncliffe's billiard room. Stanhope's picture is closer to another of Poynter's depictions of Andromeda, the single-figure composition of 1869 (sold in these rooms, 17 May 2011, lot 17). Spencer-Stanhope probably knew Poynter through his friendship with his brother-in-law Burne-Jones.
Another version of Andromeda
was sold in these rooms (19 November 2013, lot 13). That version was the same size but the background is of a more enclosed and rocky promontory. It was not uncommon for Stanhope to paint two version of the same subject, perhaps creating one to satisfy a commission and another for him to retain.
Andromeda was influenced by the work of Sandro Botticelli, particularly the flowing hair and the position of the arms of the principal figure in The Birth of Venus (Uffizi, Florence) and the rocky architecture of Pallas and the Centaur (both Uffizi, Florence). Spencer-Stanhope had close links with Italy, visiting often from around 1873 and from 1880 settled at the Villa Nuti at Bellosguardo in the countryside outside Florence which became a centre for British visitors.