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The 3 Graces (etching),   32 x 24 cm.   1878


There always has been some controversy concerning the title of the original painting by Watts (above, small). It was also known as the “Judgment of Paris” (“Who is the fairest; Hera, Aphrodite or Athena” ?).  Today however it is known as the 3 Graces (Aglaya, Euphrosine and Thalia). This version travelled to the Exposition International in Paris in 1878 with several others, making the artist instantly famous and has been kept, since its return to England in the Henderson family since 1905 known as Baron Faringdon.  


I can not say this fine engraved (etched) version was actually created by Watts or another etcher. A second engraved example could not be found while this copy showed up in an American auction in 2020 and was acquired with the friendly help of my friend Tom in Boston. It is no doubt one of the finest works in my entire collection. 


It had a little tear in the upper margin, nothing that could not be restored. Besides, when it is obviously as rare as I suspect it to be, of no real consequence to my collecting ideals of pre-owned art: “better to cherish a copy with flaws then have no copy at all”.   

The original painting is in the possession of Baron Faringdon, today probably the 5th to hold the title bestowed on Alexander Henderson in 1905 as the first Baron Faringdon living in Buscot Park near Faringdon in Oxfordshire.  


It is said Watts, who at the time, after divorcing his first wife in 1877 lead a Bohemian household in Little Holland House in Kensington was inspired by the gardeners daughter Maria Bartley (1849-1882) because of her figure (she had extremely long limbs). She was Watts muze and favoured model. Because of her build and appearance she is also known as Long Mary.  

                       Eduard Lebiedzky (1862-1915)                                                                              Russel Flint (1880-1969)

The exact reason for the title “mix-up” of Watts 3 Graces painting could not be discovered. He actually did a painting of the Judgement theme which also has the 3 nude and beautiful (of course) ladies in common. Depictions of the Judgement of Paris for obvious reason should have the judge (Paris) and the prize (the golden apple), robbed by Hercules from the tree of eternal youth in the sacred Garden of the Gods guarded by the Hesperides (to complicate things even more: they are often mixed up with the 3 Graces.   


Both themes, the Judgement of Paris and the 3 Graces have been the subject of numerous paintings by numerous artist. Although my small collection of engraved works build around the 3 Graces gives enough dilemas of selecting and choosing I am not unaware of examples of  works (painting, etching etc….) with the Judgment of Paris:


This is a nice opportunity (you may call it a bridge) to show two of my favourite and probably lesser known “Judgment” paintings.




gerbrandcaspers@icloud.com