James Havard Thomas

Thyrsis

1912

Medium
Wax and wood
Dimensions
Object: 1683 x 702 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and Vernon Wethered 1926
Reference
N04202

Display caption

Havard Thomas trained in Paris and then in 1889 moved to Italy, where he lived for seventeen years. In 1905 he sent a male nude 'Lycidas' to the Royal Academy, where its rejection caused a scandal. This is nearby in Room 11. In 1912 Havard Thomas returned to the theme with 'Thyrsis'. The title comes from the poem of 1866 by Matthew Arnold of that name, and Arnold's poem had itself been based on Milton's 'Lycidas' (1637). Thyrsis was an ancient Greek shepherd. Arnold chose to commemorate a friend from Oxford in this pastoral character. The shepherd's pipe was for Arnold a symbol of his own youth, and Havard Thomas's figure itself commemorates Italy and classical art. This bronze was cast in 1948, from the original in wax.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N04202 THYRSIS 1912

Inscr. ‘J Havard Thomas [indistinctly] MCMXII’ on top of base.
Wood and black wax, 66 1/4×27 5/8×15 5/8 (168·25×70·5×39·75), including base, 22 3/8×15 5/8×1 1/2 (57×39·75×4).
Presented by the National Art-Collections Fund with the aid of subscriptions from Lord Duveen and Vernon Wethered 1926.
Coll: Purchased by the N.A.C.F. from the artist's widow 1926.
Exh: R.A., 1912 (1990); Leicester Galleries, April–May 1922 (56).

There are three bronze casts in addition to N05958 below: one at Johannesburg Art Gallery, another at Manchester City Art Gallery, and a third at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The Johannesburg version is signed and dated ‘J. Havard Thomas sculp. MCMXIII’ and was presented to the Gallery by Sir Max Michaelis. The Manchester version was exhibited at the R.A., 1914 (2185), is signed and dated ‘J. Havard Thomas, Sc. MCMXIV’, and was purchased by Manchester direct from the artist. The Melbourne version is similarly signed and dated - ‘I. Havard Thomas, MCMXIV’ - and was commissioned from the artist by the Trustees of the Felton Bequest, following the exhibition of the wax at the Royal Academy in 1912.

The arms were detached when N05958 was cast in 1948.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II