Simeon Solomon

The Moon and Sleep

1894

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 514 x 762 mm
frame: 684 x 940 x 80 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Miss Margery Abrahams in memory of Dr Bertram L. Abrahams and Jane Abrahams 1973
Reference
T01719

Display caption

The subject of this painting was inspired by the Greek myth of Endymion who, having been granted the gift of eternal youth by Jupiter, is sent to sleep forever. Solomon here shows the moon goddess Luna visiting Endymion, as she does every night.

The subject was given new meaning following the publication of Keats’s poem Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Young Decadents and Aesthetes found in Keats’s poem an echo of homoerotic yearning. At the time this was painted Solomon was living in poverty following his arrest and conviction for homosexual soliciting in 1873.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Simeon Solomon 1840–1905

T01719 The Moon and the Sleep 1894

Inscribed ‘S.S. 1894’ b.r.
Canvas, 20¼ x 30 (51.5 x 76.3).
Presented by Miss Margery Abrahams in memory of Dr Bertram L. Abrahams and Jane Abrahams 1973.
Coll: Purchased from the artist by the donor’s grandmother, Rachel Simmons; thence by descent.

There is no recorded title for this work but the donor remembers it always being known in the family as ‘The Moon and Sleep’, and it seems likely that this is in fact the artist’s title for it. It is clear, however, that the original inspiration must have been the Greek myth of Endymion, a youth who, as he lay in perpetual sleep on Mount Latmus in Caria, so astonished the moon (the Greek goddess Selene) with his beauty that her normally cold heart was moved. She came down to him, kissed him, lay by his side and subsequently had fifty daughters by him. One version of the legend says that it was Selene herself who put Endymion to sleep so that she might kiss him without his knowledge.

At the time he painted T01719 Solomon was leading a hand-to-mouth life in London. Rachel Simmons, his first cousin, was one of those who regularly bought work from him for small sums. According to the donor ‘he used to come to the area door (at 41 Gordon Square)—five shillings seemed to be the standard price’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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