Sir Jacob Epstein

Euphemia Lamb


Not on display

Sir Jacob Epstein 1880–1959
Object: 375 × 400 × 203 mm, 12 kg
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

Display caption

The sitter was Nina Forrest, an artist's model and the wife of the painter Henry Lamb. Lamb called her Euphemia because she looked like the female in the Italian Renaiassance artist Andrea Mantegna's painting of St Euphemia. Epstein and Lamb were good friends and Nina sat twice for Epstein. Epstein has kept to the format of early Renaissance portrait busts here, probably in order to suggest a link with the Mantegna painting.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘Epstein’ on back of right shoulder and founder's stamp ‘cire perdue A.A. Hébrard’.
Bronze, 14 3/4×15 3/4×8 (37×40×20).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917.
Coll: Purchased by the C.A.S. from the artist 1913.
Exh: C.A.S., First Public Exhibition in London, Goupil Gallery, April 1913 (161), as ‘Bust of Mrs Lamb’; Twenty-One Gallery, December 1913–January 1914 (5) [2nd ed.], as ‘Euphemia’, bust, bronze, 1908; Arts Council, Tate Gallery, September–November 1952 (2, detail repr. in illustrated supplement, pl.3); Edinburgh Festival, August–September 1961 (25, plaster repr. pl.3); Arts Council, Tate Gallery, November–December 1961 (6, detail repr. pl.3).
Lit: Epstein, 1940, p.56; ibid., 1955, p.42; Buckle, 1963, pp.52–4, 88, 424, plaster repr. pl.74.
Repr: Van Dieren, 1920, pl.18 (the cast formerly in the Quinn Collection); Black, 1942, pl.83.

The artist wrote (loc. cit) that after completing the Strand sculptures he had the desire to train himself in a more intensive method of working: ‘I began a series of studies from the model, which were as exact as I could make them. I worked with great care, and followed the forms of the model by quarter inches ... not letting up on any detail of construction of plane; but always keeping the final composition in view. These studies included the various works I made from Nan ... and also studies of Euphemia Lamb.... I look upon this period as still formative. Also at this time I did a bust of Lady Gregory and Mrs Ambrose McEvoy, and several busts of my wife.’

The model, Nina Euphemia Forrest, was the first wife of the painter Henry Lamb, whom she married in 1906; in 1935 she married Edward Grove (see A. John, T00138); they were divorced in 1943 and she died in 1956. Lamb called her ‘Euphemia’ because she reminded him of the fair-haired St Euphemia of Mantegna. She posed for a number of artists, including John and her husband; the Tate Gallery also owns a portrait of her by McEvoy, N04447, dating from 1909.

This is almost certainly the first of four studies which Epstein made of her and was dated 1908 in the second edition of the Twenty-One Gallery exhibition catalogue 1913 (see above). The sculptor confirmed that this was the first in a letter from Lady Epstein to the compiler, 22 September 1956. In both style and conception it is closely related to the marble bust of Mrs Chadburn and the bronze bust of Mrs Mary McEvoy (N06139) variously dated as 1909 (Buckle, 1963, p.424) and 1910 (Haskell, 1931, p.167), although the absence of any decisive stylistic development between the years 1908 and 1910 makes it difficult to date works with accuracy. Buckle (op. cit., p.424) assigns N03187 to 1911, but documentary and stylistic evidence seem to weigh against this later date.

Euphemia also posed about 1910 for a garden figure in marble 53 in. high commissioned by Lady Ottoline Morrell. Either this, or more likely, the plaster sketch for it (Haskell, 1931, p.168; repr. Buckle, op. cit., pl.72) was shown at the National Portrait Society, January–February 1911 (60), as ‘Euphemia’ (medium unspecified), and a description of the work appears in a review published in The Athenaeum, 28 January 1911, p.105, in which the writer criticizes the anatomical distortion of the legs but gives no indication of the medium. The marble sculpture belonged to Mrs Arthur Clifton in 1963 (repr. Buckle, op. cit., pl.73), and a bronze cast of the torso, 44 in. high and made in 1912, was sold at Christie's, 22 June 1962 (94, repr.), as ‘Fountain Figure’. A second bust, which shows Euphemia looking up (repr. Buckle, op. cit., pl.74), is related to the garden sculpture and should probably be dated c. 1910–11.

Another cast of N03187, unsigned and possibly earlier than that belonging to the Tate Gallery, was presented by Mrs Solomons to the National Museum of Israel, Jerusalem, 1956. Edward Grove wrote (28 October 1957): ‘Epstein says it is not really a portrait, that he only used Euphemia to work from.’

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

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