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Notorious shocking Pompeii painting goes to auction

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Sir Edward John Poynter's controversial painting, "The Ionian Dance," which reportedly shocked Victorians for its depiction of a scantily clad dancing girl is set to be auctioned for top dollar at Bonhams. Intended to depict the sexual excesses of Pompeii, the painting was at one time reported lost. It's set to be sold for more than $600,000 in U.S. dollars.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Debuting in 1895, the painting was last seen on the open market in 1915, when it passed into a private collection and out of the public gaze.

"The Ionian Dance" re-emerged nearly a century later after being offered at Bonhams auction house. A spokesman called the painting "arguably the most important work by Sir Edward Poynter," as he claimed it was the first opportunity for it to be seen in "generations."

The painting was intended to bring to life an ancient Greek poem by Horace, in which a young girl is exiled from Greece and the Ionian islands. She is seen in the painting in a translucent gown, performing a native dance for her Roman mistress. The painting was reportedly "heavily influenced" by the stories of debauchery coming out of the buried city of Pompeii, after it was rediscovered in 1863.

"For the first time, excavations exposed magnificent murals, artworks and the preserved remains of the city's inhabitants," a spokesman for Bonhams said.

"The city had been discovered once before in 1599 by an architect who stumbled across frescoes of such frequent sexual content that they were hastily covered over again and no more of the city was touched.

"After the 19th century re-discovery, artists were heavily influenced by the ancient Roman culture that had been tragically wiped from history."

"The Ionian Dance" was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, and bought from the artist by notable collector Robert English. It remained in his collection until his death in 1914, when it was sold by his estate.

The auction is scheduled for July 10 at Bonhams' 19th Century Paintings sale.

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