Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Pen and brown ink, grey wash
  • 10 ⅞ × 5 ½ inches · 250 × 140 mm
  • Drawn in 1705

Thornhill’s complex architectural decorative schemes generated large numbers of preparatory designs, with multiple treatments for each project. This boldly drawn standing figure in a niche relates to two of Thornhill’s grandest schemes, the painted hall at Stoke Edith House in Herefordshire and the Sabine Room at Chatsworth both executed before 1708. 

Fluidly executed in ink and wash Thornhill’s drawing depicts a female deity holding a spear and bridle; the latter is usually associated with Nemesis and may be a variant on the figure of Justice that was eventually included as the centrepiece of the hall at Stoke Edith; at Chatsworth Thornhill included a figure of Concord. Both projects date from the beginning of Thornhill’s career, before he gained the commission to paint the ceiling at Greenwich. In both schemes, Thornhill situated the niche centrally in the room above the fireplace, and on the walls either side painted a curved colonnade that ran behind the statue, a motif Thornhill favoured for structuring his complex, multi-figural histories.[1] Thornhill is known to have prepared alternative schemes for his client at Stoke Edith, and a representation of Minerva may well have been in consideration at an early point in the design process. Thornhill's work there was destroyed by fire in 1927, but Osmun judged the hall: 'one of Thornhill's most ambitious decorations for a private house... larger than the rooms he painted at Chatsworth or Hanbury, and more complex.'[2]


  1. Edward Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837, London, 1962, vol 1 p.70.
  2. William Osmun, A Study of the Work of Sir James Thornhill, unpublished PhD thesis, 1950, vol.I, p.441.