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William ETTY  (1787-1849) - Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm
Ref : 67464
Price on Request
Period :
19th century
Artist :
William ETTY (1787-1849)
Provenance :
Medium :
Oil on canvas
Dimensions :
L. 20.47 inch X l. 16.54 inch
Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Art

Paintings, sculptures, works of art

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William ETTY (1787-1849) - Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm

William ETTY (1787-1849)
Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm, c. 1830-32

Oil on canvas, 52 x 42 cm

Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm is a study for the central group in a large work (158.7 x 117.5 cm) of the same title which Etty painted in around 1830 and showed at the Royal Academy in 1832. The majestic canvas was snapped up by English collector Robert Vernon, who decided in 1847 to offer it and other works from his collection to National Gallery (it currently hangs in the Tate Britain). The painting was inspired by the poem The Bard penned by Thomas Grey in 1757, a poem which harked back, as Grey himself tells us, to "a tradition current in Wales that Edward the First, when he completed the conquest of the country, ordered all the bards that fell into his hands to be put to death" (Robinson, 2007, p. 180). In connection with the subject inspired by The Bards, Etty writes in an undated letter addressed to the art dealer Wass: "The view I took of it was as a general allegory of Human Life, its empty vain pleasures – if not founded on the laws of Him who is the Rock of Ages" (Robinson, 2007, p. 180). These words leave us in no doubt as to the fact that the artist was bent on allegorically depicting the irresponsible nature of Richard II of England, later deposed by King Henry IV, who pushed his court in the direction of the superficial pleasures of life rather than turning his mind to the moral duties incumbent upon a responsible sovereign. In painterly terms, Richard II's attitude is represented metaphorically by a gilded ship threatened by the sudden appearance of a fearful storm drawing ever nearer. The painting was given a critical reception by the public and by the press, both seeing the work simply as a vessel for the portrayal of sensual and provocative nudes while failing to grasp its underlying moral message.
The study shows the semi-naked bodies of the two figures who occupy a central position in the large painting, at the peak of an ascending movement reminiscent in its pyramidal conformation of the virtually contemporary paintings of Théodore Géricault and of Eugène Delacroix, which Etty had unquestionably had occasion to admire during his time in France. The stylistic rendering of the figures, however, is a very different matter from that of those two French artists. Etty here appears still to be bound by a concept of the nude imbued with idyllic idealisation, to the point where his figures' postures echo the style of the 16th century artists whose work Etty had seen in the course of his travels in Italy and in France. Thus the artist marks his distance from the crude, "base" reality depicted by Géricault.

Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Art


19th Century Oil Painting