Consulting the Oracle, 1884

By John William Waterhouse, British, 1848-1917

 

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John William Waterhouse (1848-1917)
Tate Britain, London
Oil Painting Reproduction on Canvas
Delivered within 4 to 5 weeks
119.4 × 198.1 cm

 

       

Painting description

"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