Friday, 25 March 2011

Cupid's Spell by Henry Woods RA

The scene of this painting is an old garden on the border of the lagoon at Venice. At one time it was doubtless the private preserve of some stately nobleman whose classic taste is represented by the sturdy Cupid with dart poised aloft. Here the pleasant corner is public property, and the Cupid is made to serve a utilitarian purpose, as a support for fishermen's nets hung up to dry in the sun. Yet the vigerous little piece of statuary is apposite enough to the modern idyll represented at the base of the pedestal. A young fisherman has come ashore, and sits gazing languorously at the pretty Venetian girl engaged in spinning. Apparently she has no thought save for her skeins of wool. But the little god above, who has probably assisted at many such meetings in the past, appears to know better, and is making ready to launch the fatal shaft at the potential lovers.
The artist, whose long connexion with Venice is referred to in the biographical note accompanying his picture, A Venetian Christening Party (Plate No. 78 in this collection), painted this work in 1885, and exhibited it the same year at the Royal Academy. It was acquired by Sir Henry Tate, and was in due course given to the nation. The technique of the work is in accordance with the academic traditions of both this country and nineteenth-century Italy. It is close, to the point of fastidiouusness, but it has the charm of its refinement, and there are power and grace in the beautiful drawing of the picturesquely clothed figures. The vista of the' stones of Venice ' seen across the grey - blue waters of the lagoon helps in the building-up of a natural composition, while the atmosphere of a bright day tempered by an almost impalp­able mist from the water has been cleverly caught.

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