Community

 

Waterhouse Message Board

« Forum Index


"Matilda" (formerly called "Beatrice")

MESSAGE:
Christie's Victorian & Traditionalist Picture sale on 5 June 2008 will include an oil sketch by Waterhouse we have known as Beatrice.

They believe this has been an incorrect description and below is information from the lot notes explaining why they believe it should instead be referred to as, Matilda.

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii3/cbimage/1amatildabeatrice.jpg
 
Matilda (formerly called "Beatrice")
19 1/8 x 24 in.
(48.5 x 60.9 cm.)
Estimate £30,000 - £50,000

(Below they also refer to Dante and Beatrice) 

From the Lot Notes:
"Shortly before he died in 1917, the late Pre-Raphaelite J.W. Waterhouse was developing two oil sketches of approximately the same size: a three-figure composition acquired by the Dahesh Museum of Art (New York) in 1997 (fig. 1) , and the present single-figure "close-up." Together these canvases reflect Waterhouse's late interest in the spiritualised love celebrated by the Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) in his three-part La Divina Commedia. In his final years, as he endured the liver cancer that would ultimately kill him,Waterhouse became evermore fascinated with the passionate narratives that had captivated the early Pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). We see this in the large canvases now at the Lady Lever Art Gallery-both based on Boccaccio's Il Decameron - and also in the 1916 double treatments of Malory's Tristram and Isolde and Shakespeare's The Tempest. ... The female figure in the Dante sketches has traditionally been described as Beatrice, but this now appears to be incorrect. The composition of the Dahesh painting clearly shows the kneeling figure of Dante (immediately recognisable by his characteristic headdress, with lappets over the ears) with two standing figures on one side of a stream, facing a female figure carrying flowers on the other side. This arrangement corresponds closely to the scene in Dante's Purgatorio, Canto XXVIII, where Dante sees Matilda gathering flowers and singing on the farther bank of the stream of Lethe. At this point in the narrative, which Waterhouse knew well, Dante is accompanied by his guides, Virgil and Statius, who must be the two standing figures. Thus the woman in both paintings cannot represent Beatrice (who does not appear until Canto XXX, after Virgil has disappeared, and who does not carry flowers). The episode of Matilda gathering flowers relates logically to Waterhouse's long-standing interest in women gathering flowers. Many (if not all) seem to be related to the mythological story of Persephone, who was abducted and swept into the underworld by Hades while she gathered flowers in the vale of Enna. Indeed, Dante explicitly connects the scene of Matilda gathering flowers with the story of Persephone (Canto XXVIII, lines 49-51). It is typical of Waterhouse's decorum that he focused on this episode of Dante's epic, avoiding more sensational moments that captivated many of his contemporaries, such as the eternal torment of the adulterous lovers, Paolo and Francesca. Still waters run deep, of course, and we can be sure that Waterhouse felt quite strongly about Dante's poetry and his views on love. Not surprisingly, both of the Dante pictures remained in Waterhouse's St John's Wood studio after his death. They were sold separately at Christie's in 1926 when his widow, Esther Kenworthy Waterhouse, dispersed the contents of the studio. Both are enjoyable today not only for their beauty and intellectual significance, but also for revealing how Waterhouse built up his surfaces, first drawing the composition with fluid black paint and then gradually laying in the flesh, flowers, drapery, trees, and landscape."


 RESPONSES:

Provenance from the June 2008 sale is listed as:

The artist's sale; Christie's, London, 23 July 1926, lot 56. Christie's, London, 25 January 1974, lot 148, to the present vendor.

In my photocopy of the 1926 Christie's sale catalogue that included, The Remainng Works of The Late J. W. Waterhouse, Esq., R.A. - lot 56 is listed as Beatrice and among the unframed entries lot 89 includes Dante and Beatrice with The Lady of Shalott and Portrait of a Lady. It won't feel quite right calling the painting Matilda. :)
But it is right...now to get used to it! :D Gwendoline shows up more clearly in the piece of Matilda alone. The theme of this, going back and reading the scene (I haven't read Dante in years, and had forgotten), is interesting given the time it was painted. Dante looks upon Virgil as a father, his ultimate guide; the father is as taken as Dante with the presence of Matilda, who also leads him toward the beloved image of Beatrice. But even as he sees what he wants, he is in tears in this scene, for he may see the desire, but he never achieves it. And that sums up Nino rather well. The illness dragged on him for years, keeping him close enough to see what he wanted, but too far (and in too much pain) to reach it.
From the Lot Descripton shared before (bear with me, please) :)

"... The female figure in the Dante sketches has traditionally been described as Beatrice, but this now appears to be incorrect. The composition of the Dahesh painting clearly shows the kneeling figure of Dante (immediately recognisable by his characteristic headdress, with lappets over the ears) with two standing figures on one side of a stream, facing a female figure carrying flowers on the other side. This arrangement corresponds closely to the scene in Dante's Purgatorio, Canto XXVIII, where Dante sees Matilda gathering flowers and singing on the farther bank of the stream of Lethe. At this point in the narrative, which Waterhouse knew well, Dante is accompanied by his guides, Virgil and Statius, who must be the two standing figures. Thus the woman in both paintings cannot represent Beatrice (who does not appear until Canto XXX, after Virgil has disappeared, and who does not carry flowers). The episode of Matilda gathering flowers relates logically to Waterhouse's long-standing interest in women gathering flowers. Many (if not all) seem to be related to the mythological story of Persephone, who was abducted and swept into the underworld by Hades while she gathered flowers in the vale of Enna. Indeed, Dante explicitly connects the scene of Matilda gathering flowers with the story of Persephone (Canto XXVIII, lines 49-51). ..."

Dante's Purgatorio, Canto XXVIII

Julia has shared photographs of pages from Nino's own copy of [i]The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley[/i], George Routledge and Sons, London & New York, 1880 (courtesy Peter Nahum):
 
I couldn't find an online version of that edition, but an 1895 Macmillan edition includes Shelley's Matilda Gathering Flowers. Though, I prefer reading it from the Relics of Shelley. :)

(I would guess it was in Waterhouse's 1880 version?)

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii3/cbimage/1adante-and-beatrice-1915-1.jpg

Dante and Beatrice, 1915 (but, should now be Dante and Matilda)
 
Some lines from Shelley's Matilda Gathering Flowers:

"... My slow steps had already borne me o'er Such space within the antique wood, that I Perceived not where I entered any more, When, lo ! a stream whose little waves went by, Bending towards the left through grass that grew Upon its bank, impeded suddenly My going on. Water of purest hue On earth, would appear turbid and impure Compared with this, whose unconcealing dew, Dark, dark, yet clear, moved under the obscure Eternal shades, whose interwoven looms The rays of moon or sunlight ne'er endure. I moved not with my feet, but 'mid the glooms Pierced with my charmed eye contemplating The mighty multitude of fresh May blooms That starred that night, when, even as a thing That suddenly for blank astonishment Dissolves all other thought, A solitary woman ! and she went Singing and gathering flower after flower, With which her way was painted and besprent. Bright lady, who, if looks had ever power To bear true witness of the heart within, Dost bask under the beams of love, come lower Towards this bank. I prithee let me win This much of thee, to come, that I may hear Thy song — like Proserpine in Enna's glen. Thou seemest to my fancy, singing here And gathering flowers, as that fair maiden when She lost the spring, and Ceres her more dear."

http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii3/cbimage/1amatildabeatrice-1.jpg
 
Dante - Shelley - Waterhouse ... lovely. :)

Some of the sketches found in Waterhouse's copy of The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley were for earlier works: [i]The Siren[/i], Medea in [i]Jason and Medea [/i]and [i]Ariadne[/i]. Others were closer to the date of [i]Matilda[/i]: [i]Vanity[/i]; [i]Penelope and the Suitors[/i]; A Listener in [i]A Tale from the Decameron[/i]. (The sketches for the later works could have been done earlier, though?)

- Matilda is mentioned in a letter to Leigh Hunt when Shelley is writing about "Michael Angelo":

"He has been called the Dante of painting ; but if we find some of the gross and strong outlines which are employed in the most distasteful passages of the "Inferno," where shall we find your http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/V3notes/rimini.html]Francesca— where the spirit coming over the sea in a boat, like Mars rising from the vapours of the horizon — where Matilda gathering flowers, and all the exquisite tenderness, and sensibility, and ideal beauty, in which Dante excelled all poets except Shakspeare?")


Post a reply

You need to login before posting a new message.


« Go to Forum Index