A Beautiful Late 19thC Irish School Oil on Canvas; Goddess of the Moon


Origin: Irish
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870-1900
Canvas Height: 11.5 inches
Canvas Width: 8.5 inches
In Frame: 13 x 16 inches

The framed and glazed oil on canvas depicting Luna, the Goddess of the Moon as a swathed nude maiden nymph in diaphanous fabric amongst a starry midnight blue sky, the crescent moon crowning her upturned hand, is presented in as found condition in the gilt frame, the work apparently unsigned.

In entirely untouched and original condition there is one small hole in the sky to the right of the nymph and the picture is fairly dirty under its glass. Verso we see the old Belfast frame makers label James Ma????...Gallery, Picture Framers, Belfast. The frame and glass are all original to the painting though the frame suffers from a fair amount of loss to the mouldings. As always, we think this more charming than a botched restoration.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Luna is the divine embodiment of the Moon. She is often presented as the female complement of the Sun (Sol) conceived of as a god. In Roman art, Luna's attributes are the crescent moon and the two-yoke chariot. The moon is associated with the divine femine as in many tribal societies the feminine cycles were linked to the phases of the moon. The Moon was important in ancient calendars, helping people to measure time and to determine when the best time was for planting and harvesting crops.  This being an Irish picture, it is probably a depiction of Arianrhod who is the Celtic Goddess of the moon and stars, her name meaning “silver- wheel” the wheel of the year and the web of fate. There is a very similar design to this picture on a c.1890 tile made by Minton by T J Bott.

We believe through research that the remnants of the label to the reverse refer to a certain James Magill who was a photographer, print seller, and picture frame manufacturer, book seller, stationer and artists' colourman and also sub-distributor of Stamps for Belfast. He was at the premises of at Corn Market after 1899 though the picture itself dates earlier, we believe to the 1870s or 80s.

This beautifully painted work of the lunar deity furnishes the viewer with a dreamy, magical and enchanting ideal of this majestic ancient myth.