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Title Naiades
Collection Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum
Artist Pagliei, Gioacchino (Italian artist, 1852-1896)
Date 1882 (dated)
Signed yes

The subject is purportedly mythological: in Greek mythology, the Naiades were water nymphs living in springs, lakes and rivers. They were responsible for fertility and growth, and were always shown with long hair and often holding large shells in their laps. Naiades were shown clothed in early depictions, but later naked from the waist up. Their sea-going counterparts were the Nereides, the sea nymphs, supposedly the fifty beautiful daughters of the seagod Nereus, who assisted sailors; the most famous Nereides were Thetis, Galatea and Amphiritrite, wife of Poseidon or Neptune. Nereides were usually depicted naked or half-naked, and riding dolphins and other sea creatures.

Current Accession Number LEAMG:A111.1930
Inscription front lr 'G Pagliej Roma 1882'
Subject animal (seagull); figure (nude); landscape; marine; mythology (Nereides)
Measurements 110 x 162 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Miss Agnes Bright 1930.

There is a plaque attached to the frame, with the following inscription upon it: 'The Naiades of G. Pagliej / Bequest of the Late Miss Agnes Bright, 1930'. The identification of the female figures as Naiades (fresh-water nymphs) is a mistake, although whose mistake is not clear; they are in fact Nereides (sea nymphs). The setting here suggests a sea coast, and the shells confirm the identity of the women as Nereides.

In reality, though, this is not so much a mythological painting as an excuse for depicting alluring female nudity, as made popular in the later nineteenth century in England by such artists as Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Sir Frederick Leighton, who both used classical settings for their often titillating but beautifully painted depictions of scantily clad or bathing maidens.

This painting by Pagliei is well executed, but rather contrived and typical of its period. A larger version of the same painting is in the Castle Museum, Nottingham.

Rights Owner Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (Warwick District Council)
Author Sophie Oosterwijk



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