This is the reduced-scale replica of a larger work exhibited 1884.
On 25 November 2009 this painting was sold for $722,228 at Christies's London (Sale
7823, Lot 19).
"Miracles, magic and the power of prophecy are common themes in Waterhouse's art. In this
picture he shows a group of seven young girls, sitting in a semicircle round a lamplit shrine,
waiting in excitement while the priestess interprets the words of the Oracle.
The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy with the following explanation in the catalogue:
'The Oracle or Teraph was a human head, cured with spices, which was fixed against the wall, and
lamps being lit before it and other rites performed, the imagination of diviners was so excited
that they supposed that they heard a low voice speaking future events.' The setting is probably
imaginary, but has an exotic, middle-eastern flavour, derived from the work of artists such as J.F.
Lewis (1805-1876), rather than from personal experience. The atmosphere is heady with incense and
the priestess gestures to the women to be silent as she strains to interpret the utterings of the
mummified head." - www.tate.org.uk