THE DREAM OF ITALY and HEAD OF A BACCHANTE

The Dream of Italy ‘mountains’ and ‘clouds’ versions are assumed to be the same canvas, reworked by Annie, perhaps because of the criticism of the original version.


THE DREAM OF ITALY (mountains version).

a-bacchante-mountains-version-original-sphere-image-wm

Image: The Sphere (newspaper), 9 Dec 1922.

The Art Journal, 1899:

‘A Dream of Italy,’ by Mrs. Swynnerton, is a very ambitious composition, and if somewhat dry and incisive, attains a measure of success that, with due deference, perhaps no other woman artist could secure.

The London Daily Mail, 22 April 1899:

Mrs. Swynnerton’s “A Dream of Italy” (213) … The flamboyant figure of a more than sufficiently endowed (physically speaking) Italian peasant girl flaunts herself from out the canvas. Her dimensions are so liberal as to be almost terrifying. The colour, too, is cast in the same generous mould. Clever the painting is, undeniably: but it is too aggressive, too compelling.

Truth, 27 April 1899:

I am afraid that Mrs. A. L. Swynnerton’s “Dream of Italy” (No. 213) must be considered a nightmare. The massive and large-limbed woman, with very little on, who is squeezing the juice of unripe grapes into her mouth, and posing at large, so to speak, in front of a number of papier-mâché rocks, is not in any way suggestive of the Italy we know now.

  • Medium: oil on canvas (assumed).
  • Dimensions: 1050 x 2170 mm (2.3 m²), assumed to be identical to the ‘Clouds Version.’
  • History: 1899 or earlier; otherwise known only from image in The Sphere (newspaper), 9 Dec 1922.
  • Location: unknown.

THE DREAM OF ITALY (‘clouds’ version)

a-bacchante-clouds-version-rectified-wm

a-bacchante-clouds-version-detail-1

a-bacchante-clouds-version-detail-2

a-bacchante-clouds-version-detail-3

Images: www.invaluable.com.

  • Medium: oil on canvas.
  • Dimensions: 1050 x 2170 mm (2.3 m²).
  • History: assumed to be the 1899 or earlier canvas reworked; auctioned by iGallery, Salem, MA, July 27, 2017 and 24 May 2018, both times unsold.
  • Location: unknown.

The two canvases compared:

a-bacchante-gif


HEAD OF A BACCHANTE

Swynnerton, Annie Louisa, 1844-1933; Head of a Bacchante

head-of-a-bacchante-detail-wm

The head is very similar to that in The Dream of Italy, which also suggests that the figure in that composition is a bacchante.

The bacchantes were the female followers of the Roman god Bacchus (Greek Dionysus), who could dance to an ecstatic frenzy, heads wreathed in the god’s sacred plant, ivy, and who were capable of doing great violence to their enemies.

An earlier painting, entitled Bacchante, ‘with a goat … Deep red and blue garments; background of woods,’ is recorded as being on display in the New Gallery catalogue for 1888, so the subject seems to have been a favourite of Annie’s.

Head of a Bacchante:

  • Medium: oil on canvas.
  • Dimensions: 410 x 460 mm (0.19 m²).
  • History: signed, but signature (and date?) hidden behind frame; 1903 according to artuk.org; presented by Mrs. Richard Shute, 1937.
  • Location: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

 

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