Thomas Seddon, 1821-1856: ‘Penelope’

penlope
THOMAS SEDDON
1821-1856
PENELOPE ‘THEN DURING THE DAY SHE WOVE THE LARGE WEB, WHICH AT NIGHT SHE UNRAVELLED’ THE ODYSSEY
signed and dated l.r.: T Seddon 18/52
oil on canvas
91.5 by 71cm., 36 by 28in.

PROVENANCE

George Wilson of Redgrave Hall, Suffolk and thence by descent to Mr P.J. Holt Wilson, by whom sold Sotheby’s, 28 November 1972, lot 49

EXHIBITED

London, Royal Academy, 1852, no. 339;
London, Society of Arts, Thomas Seddon Memorial Exhibition, 1857

LITERATURE

John P. Seddon, Memoir and Letters of the late Thomas Seddon, artist, By his Brother, 1859, pp. 16-17;
The Journal of the Society of Arts, May 1857, pp.360-362;
The Art Journal, 1857, p.198

CATALOGUE NOTE

This is the first recorded work from the hand of the short-lived and very remarkable Pre-Raphaelite artist Thomas Seddon. Thought of principally as a painter of eastern landscape subjects, the present beautiful and important work provides a fascinating clue to his artistic training and formative years. Although quite unlike the type of work for which he did become known, it reveals the instinctive creative talent and natural skill that he possessed. An unusual subject for an English painter to take in the 1850s, and therefore possibly reflecting his knowledge of contemporary French art, it shows Penelope looking out as the dawn breaks – her companions still sleeping – after a night spent undoing the previous day’s work on a woven shroud. Her reason for doing this was because – according to the story told in Homer’s Odyssey – during the long period during which her husband Odysseus was away, assumed by most to be dead, she remained faithful to him and, when pressed to give herself in marriage to another, always said she could not until the shroud was finished, a subterfuge which she maintained for ten years until a maid servant revealed how it was that the garment was never completed. Read the rest of this entry »