Sir Lawrence ALMA-TADEMA (Dronrijp 1836 - Wiesbaden 1912)

Recto: Three Studies of Drapery [recto]; Three Studies of a Standing Male Nude [verso] Sold

Pencil and red chalk, with touches of white chalk, on buff paper.
The verso in pencil.
Inscribed (by the artist’s daughter Anna) with the artist’s initials LAT at the lower right, and partially inscribed – oracle at the lower left.
304 x 380 mm. (12 x 15 in.)


Part of a group of studies of drapery, male nudes and Egyptian costumes by Alma-Tadema, all apparently taken from an early sketchbook, have been dated to c.1857-1858. It was also at around this time that he met and became close friends with the German writer and Egyptologist Georg Moritz Ebers, who published several works on ancient Egypt and was to have a particular influence on the young artist, eventually becoming of his first biographers.

Although none of this group of six early drawings can be definitively related to any surviving works by Alma-Tadema, Stephanie Moser has suggested a tentative connection with what is thought to be one of the artist’s very first Egyptian works; The Sad Father or The Unfavourable Oracle (Opus X), painted in 1859. Originally a large processional picture in an architectural setting, it was later cut down to a reduced scale showing only three figures; this is the painting now in the Johannesburg Art Gallery in South Africa.

Another fragment of the large painting of The Sad Father was reworked by the artist ten years later, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871 under the title The Grand Chamberlain to Sesostris the Great. This reworked painting by Alma-Tadema, long thought to be lost, may be that acquired in the 1920s by the American cosmetics manufacturer and art collector Carl Weeks (1876-1962) and still today in the collection of Salisbury House and Gardens in Des Moines, Iowa, the home he built between 1923 and 1928. The Weeks painting closely matches descriptions of The Grand Chamberlain to Sesostris the Great from when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871.

As Moser has suggested, some of the drapery studies in the present group of drawings, as well as the studies of male nudes - some of whom are holding staffs - may have served for either The Grand Chamberlain to Sesostris the Great or for other parts of the composition of the now-lost large painting of The Sad Father.

The studio of the artist
The artist’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund William Gosse, London
By descent in the Gosse family, until acquired from them by a private collector in the 1920s or 1930s
Thence by descent until 2015.

Sir Lawrence ALMA-TADEMA

Recto: Three Studies of Drapery [recto]; Three Studies of a Standing Male Nude [verso]


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