John William Godward, RBA

(1861 - 1922)


Signed and dated, upper right: J.W.GODWARD/1918.; titled, signed, inscribed and dated, on the reverse: PYRALLIS/J.W.GODWARD/ROME.1918; further titled on the stretcher
Oil on canvas
19½ x 15½ in – 49.5 x 39.4 cm
Frame size
29 x 25 in – 73.7 x 63.5 cm 

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693


W.B. Simpson, Glasgow;
Private collection, UK 
Godward made a number of journeys to Rome in the early 20th century and moved there permanently in 1912, allegedly having fallen in love with one of his models. This caused a terrible rift in his family and he only ever referred to her as 'Dolcissima', meaning Castaway. Considering the intimacy and tenderness of the present work, it is highly likely she modelled for Pyrallis.


John William Godward was born in London and lived in Wimbledon, South-West London.

He was greatly influenced by the great Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA (1836-1912) a Pre-Raphaelite artist who concentrated on painting scenes from classical Rome and Greece, often depicting mythological subjects.

Godward’s subjects, mainly ladies, were usually dressed in some form of fine transparent clothing and would usually be accompanied by an animal, such as a bird or cat, or often Godward would simply include a bird’s feathers, particularly those of a peacock. He was renowned for his very fine attention to detail and also for his use of strong and vibrant colours.

Some of Godward’s most impressive pictures were of nudes and even, perhaps, of the Roman Goddess, Venus, binding her hair. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887 and then again, in the same year, at Suffolk Street.

Godward was also an Orientalist and was greatly influenced in his style by artists such as Ludwig Deutsch (b.1855) and Jean-Léon Gerome (1824-1904) and various other European artists who together formed a part of this group that specialised in painting luxurious and romantic scenes illustrating the high-life of the Far East.

* * * * * * * * * *

Bibliography: Philip Hook and Mark Poltimore “Popular 19th Century Painting” Christopher Wood “The Dictionary of Victorian Painters”

Godward, RBA John William