Lady Godiva (John Collier)

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Lady Godiva, 1897.

Lady Godiva is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style by John Collier, finished in 1897. The painting depicts Lady Godiva, Countess of Merciathe, and her famous nude horse ride through the city. The story is most likely not true, as no record of it occurs until about 200 years after the event supposedly took place, but the scandalous nature of the story has kept it popular.


This painting is a guilty pleasure for me. I can't help but find erotic Godiva's shame in riding nude through the streets with only her hair to hide her breasts, but at the same time, I'm disgusted in myself for it. Collier makes the image more sexual by having Godiva straddling the horse rather than riding side-saddle the way a traditional lady of the court would. It's interesting that there isn't a peeping Tom present, although it could be implied that, by seeing the painting, the viewer is the peeping Tom.

Godiva herself is young with perfect skin and hair. Her eyes are closed and her face is downcast in humiliation. A wedding band is visible on her left ring finger. Other than the main subject, the horse and cityscape are both exquisitely detailed. There is a bit of laziness on the wooden post on the left of the painting which was clearly added after the background, as it bleeds through.