The Women of Amphissa

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Followers of Bacchus, the god of wine, awaken in the marketplace of Amphissa, Greece, where they have wandered from their home in Phocis during a night of ritual dancing. Amphissa and Phocis are at war, but the women of Amphissa graciously offer the bacchantes nourishment and protection. The painting illustrates an event recorded by the Greek historian Plutarch, which Alma-Tadema staged as a lesson in charity for his Victorian audience.

Provenance

[Commissioned by Agnew’s, London, 1887, sold to Thwaites, 30 Apr. or 15 July 1887];¹ Daniel Thwaites, Blackburn (1887–d. 1888); Eliza Amelia Thwaites, Blackburn, his wife, by descent (1888–d. 1907); Elma Amy Thwaites Yerburgh, London, her daughter, by descent (1907–d. 1946); great-grandson of Thwaites; sale, Christie’s, London, 24 Jan. 1975, no. 108; [Somerville & Simpson, London, sold to the Clark, May 1978]; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978.


1. A letter in the Clark curatorial file from Evelyn Joll of Agnew’s, dated 5 Apr. 1979, states that Agnew’s sold this picture along with another to Daniel Thwaites, of Blackburn, and that Thwaites’s great-grandson sold this picture at Christie’s some years before the date of the letter. Clark records indicate the first sale date as 15 July 1887, but Vern Swanson gives it as 30 Apr. 1887; see Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1990, p. 233.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

British, born Netherlands, 1836–1912

The Women of Amphissa

1887

Oil on canvas

48 1/4 x 72 1/2 in. (122.5 x 184.2 cm) Frame: 58 15/16 x 83 1/16 x 4 in. (149.7 x 211 x 10.2 cm)


Acquired by the Clark, 1978

1978.12


ON LOAN

onservation view

This x - ray detects the numerous changes done to the painting. Among the changes are many outlined figures visible on the right side of the painting to the left of the dark figure leaning against the wall, and the woman darkly dressed in the back appears to once held a sort of tray in her left hand. Many more changes can be seen in the image with a closer look and in the infrared and reflected lighting.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Swanson, Vern G. The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. London: Garton & Co., 1990.

Standing, Percy Cross. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema O.M., R.A.. London: Cassell & Co., 1905.

Lees, Sarah, ed. Nineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; New Haven and London: distributed by Yale University Press, 2012.

Becker, Edwin, et al., eds. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Exhibition catalogue. New York: Rizzoli, 1997.

Conservation - Infrared Detail

This infrared detail shows the change in feet positiong of the reclining woman in the foreground of the painting.