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Lady Godiva

Painting, 1898, 142×183 cm

Description of the artwork «Lady Godiva»

"Lady Godiva" painting by John Collier and his most famous work. Nude woman on horse back — story that makes you stop and wonder at the brightness and strangeness of what is happening.

One of the most beautiful legends of old England-will help to understand why the artist has depicted a woman that way, and what lies behind.

Lady Godiva: the history and legend



Lady Godiva, or like-Saxon Godgyfu her name is wife Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who lived in the English city of Coventry in the eleventh century. It was during the reign of the mighty kings of England — Edward the Confessor, is also known for its exorbitant taxes which he levied on citizens. Leofric also had the right to file a charge with the people of his city. Not once ravaged citizens were asked to count to ease their situation, but it gave no result. His wife lady Godiva were distinguished by generosity and piety, and, too often begged her husband to be merciful and to reduce the fee, but her prayers have not achieved their goal. At the request of another wife, the enraged Earl promised to reduce taxes if she makes the craziest pitch:

"Go,' said the count, -
The town of Nago and taxes
I will cancel", - sarcastically nodded her
And walked among dogs out of the room.

Described this action Alfred Tennyson in 1842.
For the Countess of disaster people were more important than the hypocrisy and false shame, so she did exactly as told her husband. Residents, in turn, has shown grace and as a sign of sincere gratitude closed the shutters, doors and nobody saw a beautiful naked Godiva on her horse who is going round town that day. However, one careless tailor tried to look at the woman through the crack in the shutters, but then "his eyes are dressed with darkness and emerged". The act of the wife struck count, and he canceled the taxes.

Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva are real historical characters, but to make sure actually beautiful legends too. But the poem by Tennyson, helped to make this story, to make it clear and at the same time poetic and romantic shape. Thanks to his lines, the story became popular among artists and sculptors of the XIX century.

Aesthetics and morality in the picture of Collier "Lady Godiva"



All the decoration of the woman — her luxurious Auburn hair which she covers the chest. Godiva modestly lowered his head, but the gesture no humiliating shame, or fear — only softness and determination at the same time. Horse, walking through the deserted medieval town along the Gothic vaults, in stark contrast to the naked horsewoman — Royal, embroidered with gold and rich horse blanket saddle.

Many artists passed on this important and most attractive story, but Collier in their composition reflected not only a fascinating story, but also the atmosphere of what is happening:

And froze,
Barely breathing from fear, even the air
In those streets where she rode.

The main part is canvas rider, but it becomes obvious and almost palpable the silence and the emptiness enveloped barely visible to the viewer Coventry. Collier, unlike other painters and sculptors depicted the silhouette Godiva the most, avoiding the details in the image of her body. This is largely achieved through view full profile. The artist even puts his heroine in the saddle on the male type, to not allow to see extra. The outlines of the Countess resemble Gothic s-shaped figures with their grace and flexibility.

Lady Godiva is not just historical-mythological story. Nude, young, slender woman on horseback is the concentration of all ideas of the pre-Raphaelites. It is the pursuit of beauty, restraint and a proximity to nature (and what could be closer to pristine than nudity?). A special role is played by the content of the story: the sacrifice of the Countess, her moral purity itself and all the people, despite the tyranny and cruelty of a spouse. Humility and the beauty broke the insensitivity here is the basic idea of this painting.

Absolute nudity is the absolute morality in the understanding of Collier this story, "the naked truth", which made the count shudder and surrender, and residents to lower my eyes and close the shutters. The fact that in the eyes of the hypocrites looks like sin and temptation, then a clean person will be a driving force. This kind of reasoning, we can assume that it is the moral and didactic in the best sense of the word the work of John Collier.

The painting is in the Art gallery Herbert (Herbert Art Gallery) in Coventry.


Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Nude, Historical scene, Literary scene

Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites, Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1898

Size: 142×183 cm

Artwork in selections: 54 selections