GLYN PHILPOT | Niobe - The Rediscovery of a Myth

03 November 2023

Niobe is something of a rediscovery and forms part of a body of work by Philpot, including Leda and The Swan (private collection), Oedipus and the Sphinx (National Gallery of Victoria) and Echo and Narcissus (private collection), painted in the early 1930s which address themes of classical mythology in a modern style. The work was executed in Philpot's studio at 216 Boulevard Raspail in Montparnasse, an image of which is included in the National Gallery Exhibition catalogue, Glyn Philpot, 1884-1937, Edwardian Aesthete to Thirties Modernist, 1984. It was then exhibited at The Leicester Galleries in 1932; its whereabouts are then unknown before being acquired at auction by the late Seymour Stein in 1999.

Niobe on view at The Leicester Galleries Exhibition in 1932
Niobe on view at The Leicester Galleries Exhibition in 1932
Niobe in Philpot's studio in Montparnasse
Niobe in Philpot's studio in Montparnasse

Niobe was a daughter of King Tantalus of Sipylus and married Amphion, son of Zeus and Antiope. In Homer's Iliad Niobe gives birth to six sons and six daughters and boasts about her fecundity to the titan Leto, who only had two offspring, Apollo and Artemis. To punish her pride these twin deities slay all her children with arrows. Niobe then begs the gods to end her grief and pain to which Zeus acquiesces by turning her to stone although the rock still produces tears.

We are extremely grateful to Simon Martin, Director, Pallant House Gallery for his assistance in cataloguing the present work.

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