Wednesday, December 6, 2017

332. A Charles Shannon Painting of Ashtoreth

Last week's blog about two Charles Shannon paintings on show at the National Gallery prompted a reader of this blog to send me an image of an early painting by Charles Shannon, 'Ashtoreth'. This private collector apologizes for the image that reflects other pictures opposite; still, we do get a fairly good impression of the pastel that was exhibited in 1888.

Charles Shannon, 'Ashtoreth' (c. 1888) [Private collection]
According to the label on the reverse, the pastel was first exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery's Pastel Exhibition in 1888. It is quite large, measuring 112x51 cm. The label on the back mentions the name of the artist ('Chas.H. Shannon'), the title ('Ashtoreth'), and the artist's address ('The Vale Kings Road Chelsea').

Label on the reverse of Charles Shannon's 'Ashtoreth' (c. 1888) [Private collection]
Ashtoreth is also known as Astarte, a deity associated with war, sexuality and fertility. One could have expected Shannon to symbolize her by depicting a horse, a lion, a sphinx, a dove or a star within a circle. None of these associations appear in the image. We see a red-haired naked woman at the bath.

A year after the picture was exhibited (and probably drawn), Ricketts and Shannon collaborated on an illustration job for Harry Quilter's magazine The Universal Review. [See blog No 26: Universal Disdain]. Julian Corbett's story 'Jezebel' was decorated with an initial, a frontispiece, and three illustrations by Ricketts and Shannon. Ricketts depicted 'Astarté', as a god of fertility, surrounded by heart-shaped symbols of love, and with doves in the sky.

The body shape of Ricketts's 'Astarté' is sketchy, and symbolic, while Shannon's image is more realistic, and erotic, turning her head to the viewer. 

Recently, this pastel was sold by Eastbourne Auctions in a Fine and Antique Sale (lot 1165).