New search


Back to Start

Study for 'Vivien'
study for

Black and red chalk.
59.5 x 47cm

This is study for an oil painting, and shows Keomi, Sandys' gipsy lover. in the role of Vivien, a figure from Tennyson's poem 'Idylls of the King'.

The 'Idylls of the King' tells the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Vivien appears as an evil femme fatale, who attempts to seduce the sorcerer Merlin in order to learn his secrets. Tennyson calls her 'the wily Vivien' and eventually she suceeds in her task, leaving Merlin '...as dead / And lost to life and use and name and fame'. Vivien acts purely for her own gain, using her looks to get her own way.

This was a typical subject for Sandys to choose. He had already used tales from Arthurian legend, such as King Pelles' Daughter and was drawn to subjects of women who seduce, entrap and destroy men, such as Helen of Troy, Morgan Le Fay and Medea. He shows Vivien as an attractive, but haughty and self-assured woman. In front of her is an apple, perhaps referring to the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Purchased from I.B. Coates, 1910
Museum number  NWHCM : 1910.14 : F

Image ©
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery