A Coign of Vantage
A Coign of Vantage
Inkjet on watercolour paper
90 x 67.5 centimeters

Lawrence Alma-Tadema built a very sucessful artistic career on a conceit. The stock in trade of this Dutch born British Victorian artist was the depiction of languid young women hanging around opulent mock Greco-Roman marble buildings. Wealthy Victorians were prepared to pay considerable sums for this art cloaked in the pretense of history painting which generally legitimised the excuse for men to enjoy the spectacle of scantily clad women.

A Coign of Vantage is a modest Alma-Tadema affair showing a group of women langorously gazing from an elevated perch at an arriving vessel. For this reimagining I kept the element I liked the most - the group of women - and substited his background with a mysterious black clad female figure who was inserted to overcome a problem; the project had started to feel vacuous and it required a circuit breaker.

The most interesting consequence of this decision is how an image intended for the gaze of Victorian men has been redirected into the realm of contemporary religious debate about female modesty and conclude the shrouded woman wears a burqua, although it should be noted austere black dress also symbolises mourning. Whatever the case might be, close inspection reveals that she likes to indulge in feminine items - she is wearing fashionable trousers and shoes - a practice among Saudi women who seek to enjoy femininity without annoying the morality police.

A Coign of Vantage
Alma-Tadema show includes most expensive classical Victorian piece : The Guardian