The painting Coign of Vantage has been described as "quintessential Alma-Tadema" in one book devoted to the artist and his works, and indeed, this beautiful image captures the mood of lyrically wistful nostalgia for the Golden Age that the artist excelled at portraying. In a single painting, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema has succeeded in combining some of his favorite elements - lovely women clad in Classical garments, masterfully depicted marble, shimmering blue water, and an ethereal, almost otherworldly landscape - to create a work of art that is delightful to contemplate.
The title Coign of Vantage poetically refers to the location (in this case, marble terraces) on which the trio of female figures is gathered to watch the return of a fleet of Roman ships. From their elevated position, these young women can see the arrival of the ships into what has been identified as the Bay of Naples. Perhaps these aristocratic women are waiting for loved ones to return, or maybe they are simply amusing themselves. Whatever the interpretation, it is clear that the artist wanted to evoke the splendor of ancient Rome in this painting. And the aforementioned Classically inspired garments worn by the women both help to establish the ancient setting and also introduce subtle notes of soft colors into the composition. In addition, the creamy marble and serene sea evoke the atmosphere of the Mediterranean.
Coign of Vantage shares compositional similarities with Alma-Tadema's Silver Favourites. It is interesting to compare and contrast the pair of paintings.
Rosemary Barrow is the author of this remarkable book about Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Barrow offers intriguing insights into the artist's works, and also proposes ideas that lead to a critical reevaluation of Alma-Tadema's paintings. Graced with a generous number of stunning color images, this highly recommended book is certain to delight - and enlighten - fans of Victorian art.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to what Wood terms the Olympian Dreamers - including Lawrence Alma-Tadema, G.F. Watts, and Albert Moore.