'Cephalus and Aurora', 1790
John Flaxman (1755 – 1826)
Marble, 146 x 102 x 67cm
Purchased by Lever at the Hope Heirlooms sale, 1917; presented to the Gallery by the 2nd Viscount Leverhulme, 1929
Accession Number LL713
The story of Cephalus, retold in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, was popular among artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. Flaxman represents the moment when the youth, after resisting her advances, finally yields to the amorous Aurora, Greek goddess of the dawn.
This was one of the artist’s first major sculptures and was made in Rome, where he had gone to study antique works. The trip was financed by his work for Josiah Wedgwood. The sculpture may be a commission from the celebrated collector Thomas Hope, one of the prime movers of neo-classical taste. It formed the centrepiece of the famous ‘Star Room’, decorated throughout with emblems of dawn and the retreating night, at Hope’s London house in Duchess Street.
Lever purchased this piece, along with many of his antique sculptures, at the Hope Heirlooms Sale in 1917.