Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward
Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward
Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward

Ancient Pastimes by John William Godward

  • This extraordinary Neoclassical genre painting was composed by the great John William Godward
  • Entitled Ancient Pastimes, the artist captures a woman engrossed in her game of knucklebones
  • His mastery of texture and detail lends his painting unparalleled realism
  • The dramatic palette, luxurious fabrics and classical vision are Godward trademarks
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Item No. 30-8423
$885,000
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description
John William Godward
1861-1922 | British

Ancient Pastimes

Signed and dated "J.W. Godward 1916"
Oil on canvas

A beautiful Roman maiden enjoys an ancient game of knucklebones in this original oil by John William Godward. Entitled Ancient Pastimes, the work is exemplary of his unique take on the Neoclassical style. Devoted to a segment of Classicism known as the Marble School, Godward's distinctive canvases are renowned for their Greco-Roman subjects placed within architectural settings inspired by antiquity. The cool smoothness of the marble and translucent gossamer of his subject's robes reveal the high degree of technical skill that sets Godward apart from his contemporaries.

Godward's scrupulous attention to detail was second to none. His works were often compared to those of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema (to whom Godward was a protégé), who also depicted Greco-Roman themes with maidens draped in sheer fabrics. Yet, Godward's acute ability to render a variety of textures - from marble and flesh to hair and fabric - places him among the greatest painters of the classical ideal.

That celebrated attention to detail is on full display in this vibrantly hued composition. Like in many of his works, Godward chose to focus on a solitary female subject, though the implicit narrative suggests she is joined by others just out of view. Sprawled out on a marble terrace, she plays knucklebones, an ancient game where bones are simultaneously tossed into the air, the goal is to catch as many as possible on the back of one's hand. While the maiden's concentration is in the game, the viewer's eye moves from the archaic marble herm statue behind her to the flowering red almond tree and the blue Mediterranean in the distance.

Raised in Wimbledon, England, Godward debuted at London’s Royal Academy exhibition in 1887. By the subsequent decade, the burgeoning artist was on a steady ascent to artistic success. Having fallen under the influence of British Neoclassical Revivalists Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Lord Frederic Leighton, and Sir Edward John Poynter, Godward quickly adopted their style.

The sensuality and mystery of Godward’s female subjects, combined with his impressive Greco-Roman settings, attracted fans across Europe and sent Godward on a rapid ascent to artistic stardom. In 1889, he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists. Ten years later Godward debuted at the Parisian Salon of 1899, where again he was heaped with praise. In the early years of the 20th century, however, Godward was faced with the painful reality that the classical world he so loved was being overshadowed by modern art movements. He moved to Rome in 1912 to surround himself with the physical remnants of the classical world, and there he stayed for most of his remaining career.

Dated 1916

Canvas: 39 1/2" high x 19 3/4" wide
Frame: 54 1/2" high x 32 1/4" wide

References:
John William Godward: The Eclipse of Classicism, 1996, by V. Swanson, p. 239, no. 1 and p. 168, plate 158 (illustrated)

Provenance:
Christie’s in the 1950s
Private collection, Italy
Sam Fogg, Westminster
Richard Green Fine Paintings, London, 1995
M.S. Rau Antiques, 1998
Private collection, Tennessee
Private collection, New York
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans, 2018
specifications
Artist: Godward, John William
Framed:32 1/4"W x 54 1/2"H
Unframed:19 3/4"W x 39 1/2"H
Period: 1919-Present
Origin:England
Subject:Genre
Width:32 1/4 Inches
Height:54 1/2 Inches
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