Eye Candy for Today: Edward Poynter’s Lesbia and Her Sparrow

Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter
Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter

Link is to downloadable high-res file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in a private collection; information on the painting can be found in the Bonham’s auction page for its last sale.

The painting is a reference to accounts by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus of his affair with the wife of a prominent Roman statesman — for whom he uses the pseudonym “Lesbia” — and her pet sparrow, on which she lavishes affection that the poet wishes were turned to him.

There is background on Lesbia on this Wikipedia page, including other artists’ interpretations, and additional background on Lesbia and Catullus here.

I find this painting fascinating for the semi-stippled textural paint application that provides the soft edges on the face, hands and grapes in particular. The painting is in oil, but the technique reminds me of an approach often taken in Victorian watercolors.