Description & Technical information

As the artist’s contemporary biographer Percy Cross Standing noted of Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s early paintings of Egyptian subjects in particular, ‘So careful at all times about detail, he took extraordinary care in the preparation of his preliminary sketches for these pictures.’ 

Vern Swanson has suggested that this drawing, part of a group of early drawings by Alma-Tadema, may be related to two paintings of Egyptian subjects, entitled Going to the Oracle and The Contrary Oracle, that the artist seems to have planned in 1857 and 1858, but which were either never executed, or else destroyed. (During his student years Alma-Tadema often destroyed or painted over paintings which he was unhappy with.) 

The studies of male nudes on the versos of this drawing provides a rare insight into Alma-Tadema’s working process. Such academic studies from the posed model indicate that, at least at this early stage in his career, the artist initially studied the figures in his compositions as nudes, before adding drapery.

Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Germany, The Netherlands
Medium: Pencil, Buff paper, Red and white chalk
Signature: The verso in pencil.
Inscribed (by the artist’s daughter Anna) with the artist’s initials LAT at the centre right, and inscribed for the Contrary Oracle at the lower left.

Dimensions: 31 x 19.3 cm (12¹/₄ x 7⁵/₈ inches)
Provenance: The studio of the artist
The artist’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund William Gosse, London
By descent in the Gosse family until the 1920s or 1930s
Acquired by a private collector
Thence by descent until 2015.

Literature: Donato Esposito, ‘The Place of Drawing in Alma-Tadema’s Studio Practice’, British Art Studies, Issue 9, Summer 2018, fig.7.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints