Classical Scene

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

Self-Classical Scene

Classical Scene, c.1920
Red chalk, 17.4 cm x 22 cm

The Cambridge 1985 catalogue described this 'Unidentified classical scene' as 'perhaps a study for a Return of Odysseus', though it is possibly more likely that it depicts a simplified version of the start of Book 3 of the Odyssey, when Odysseus' son, Telemachus, arrives at Pylus in search of information about his father, translated by William Cowper in the 1910 Everyman's Library edition as follows:
The sun, emerging from the lucid waves,
Ascended now the brazen vault with light
For the inhabitants of earth and heav'n,
When in their bark at Pylus they arrived,
City of Neleus. On the shore they found
The people sacrificing; bulls they slew
Black without spot, to Neptune azure-hair'd.
On ranges nine of seats they sat; each range
Received five hundred, and to each they made
Allotment equal of nine sable bulls.
Another possibility is that the picture depicts the point in the seventh labour of Hercules in Greek mythology when, having travelled to Crete to capture the bull that has been wreaking havoc on the island, Hercules has subdued the beast and is about to sail away with it.
The Gillian Jason Gallery sold the picture as The Golden Calf, though the coastal setting and the boat seem to have nothing to do with the biblical story in Exodus 32.
PROVENANCE: Roberts family (1985) > Gillian Jason Gallery > Lord and Lady Neill > ? (by descent) > Bonhams 30 June 2021 (£12,112)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Cambridge 1985, Gillian Jason Gallery 1993 (as The Golden Calf)

Home page | Chronology | Bibliography | Collections | Exhibitions
News | Gallery | Auction results | The artist’s house | Contact
List of works illustrated on the site

Catalogue raisonné:
chronological | alphabetical