Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Dutch/British, 18361912)
First concept for “A Reading of Homer”, ca. 18845
Pencil on paper, 4 1/2 x 9 in
1997.2

This is a preparatory study for A Reading of Homer (1885, Philadelphia Museum of Art), one of the artist’s key pictures. An inscription on the reverse of this drawing written by the dealer Charles Deschamps (and dated 1902) reads: “One of the ideas L. Alma Tadema had for a picture A Reading of Homer to be submitted to Mr. H[enr]y Marquand of New York, who subsequently commissioned Tadema to paint him a picture of the subject, but of which the composition was quite different.”

Deschamps was the nephew of the famous London dealer Ernest Gambart, an extremely influential figure in the development of the 19th-century art market. Even though Alma Tadema ultimately painted a very different painting for Marquand, he did not completely discard the idea he had jotted down on this drawing, as he repeated the exact composition of the two girls on the left in a later picture called Love’s Votaries (1891, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne).

Published in: Roger Diederen, Telling Tales I. Classical Images from the Dahesh Museum of Art (New York, 2001)