signed and dated 'Tom Mostyn 03/04' (lower left); titled, signed and inscribed 'VANITY/TOM MOSTYN/Melina Place/St John's Wood/London.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
6912 x 5012 in. (176.5 x 128.3 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 18 July 1984, lot 280.
with Christopher Wood, London.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 1984.
Royal Academy Pictures of 1904, London, 1904, p. 81, illustrated.
C. Wood, Dictionary of British Art Volume IV, Victorian Painters, vol. 2, Historical Survey and Plates, Aberdeen, 1995, p. 331, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy, 1904, no. 498.
London, The Christopher Wood Gallery, Ye Ladye Bountifulle, Images of Women and Children in Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian Art, 7-30 November 1984, no. 38, illustrated.
Special notice
This lot is offered without reserve.
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Lot Essay

This wonderful life-sized allegorical painting is among the finest examples of Tom Mostyn’s early figurative work to appear at auction in decades. Painted in 1903-1904 when the artist had yet to make the transition to his later Impressionist landscape style, Vanity also eschews the more typical social commentary found in Mostyn’s earlier work. Instead, the picture is simply a sumptuous, jewel-toned meditation on beauty itself. The confident, broad flashes of brushwork laying tone over tone in the folds of the voluminous dress and draped red backdrop are contrasted against the careful rendering of the figure’s jewelry and face. While traditional attributes of vanity are scattered on the floor around the sitter – the mirror, the scattered jewels and the red rose – Mostyn’s personification seems largely unconcerned with them. Instead, she stares imperiously, almost confrontationally out at the viewer, her chin slightly raised. Even though she is wearing a number of different rings and necklaces, it is clear that even without these adornments of vanity, she would be a woman confident in her beauty and self-possession.

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