This figure depicts Eve listening to the voice of Adam in the Garden of Eden, a subject inspired by Book IV of John Milton's religious epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). It illustrates the following lines, spoken by Eve: 'As I bent down to look, just opposite/ A Shape within the watery gleam appeared,/ Bending to look on me. I started back, / It started back but/Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks/
Of sympathy and love.'
The composition is related to a classical sculpture in the Louvre, Paris, of a Nymph with a shell. A version of a closely related figure entitled Eve at the fountain signed and dated 1822, is in the Bristol City Art Gallery. A plaster model relating to the Bristol City Art Gallery figure is also in the V&A's collections (inv. no. A.3-2000). In a lecture delivered at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the sculptor Henry Weekes commented that Baily, 'an earnest pupil of Flaxman, was a more finished modeller than his master, though with less feeling and sentiment, and less power in design. What he gained by the means I have alluded to, was knowledge, not genius, and it carried him a great way: the latter, even his great teacher could not impart to him, though he obtained under his tuition much that we may designate as purity of style and taste. You may think it strange in me if I say that, notwithstanding he produced one of the most beautiful examples of English ideal Sculpture as yet known to us - his Eve - he was wanting in genius!' This figure was also reproduced in Parian ware (a granular porcelain), and Baily also made busts taken from this model. In 1841 he exhibited 'Eve listening to the Voice, etc.', probably the plaster model for this figure.
Edward Hodges Baily (1788-1867) was British sculptor and designer. As son of a ship’s carver he began his career as a modeller in wax. He spent seven years in John Flaxman’s studio, acknowledged as his favourite and most devoted pupil. He attended the Royal Academy Schools. He is the sculptor of the Nelson on Nelson's Column, of ca. half the sculpture for Marble Arch, some of the exterior work on Buckingham Palace, and a number of monuments in St Paul's and Westminster Abbey, just to name a few. The work that brought him fame was Eve at the Fountain first shown 1818 at the Royal Academy.
Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case FS
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Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London