Solomon visited Italy in 1866 and made a sketch for the present watercolour (sold in these rooms, 12 March 1997, lot 158) of Italian peasant boys and girls in picturesque costume. The present watercolour was painted three years later for ‘a most charming little clergyman who unites religious unction with the broadest aesthetic views.’ (Simon Reynolds, A Vision of Simeon Solomon, 1985, p.21) It was exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1870, where it puzzled the critics; ‘to what country, to what period, do the youths and maidens belong who are walking in procession, ‘In the Summer Twlight’?, whence do they come, and where are they going?’ (Builder, 12 February 1870, p.120) The subject is intended to have an enigmatic nature but could be interpreted as a melancholic musing upon the fleetingness of youth. In a similar way to John Everett Millais’ Fallen Leaves, in which an autumn evening is symbolic of the transition from girlhood to womanhood, here the glory of the last light of the day reflects the beauty of the boys and girls as they pass into adulthood. Each of the older youths are accompanied by a younger version of themselves and the word ‘Pax’ inscribed close to the signature may signify that the picture was intended as a celebration of peace. The model for the two older male figures was one that Solomon had discovered in Italy and who appears in Portrait of an Italian Youth of 1869 (University of Wales, Aberystwyth).
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