By: John Clifton (working 1848-1885)
Created: 1848-1885, Collection: Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, United Kingdom Rights: Public Domain
Lady Godiva and Earl Leofric are the centre of the composition. Just add as many people of different height behind them. A dog is sitting in the foreground.
Lady Godiva, was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to a legend dating back at least to the 13th century, rode naked through the streets of Coventry.
Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband’s oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls.
At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and, after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair.
The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom had watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.
The story was popular in the Victorian period, following the publication of a poem on the subject by Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1842. The Herbert’s collection contains a number of paintings by prominent Victorian artists, such as Sir Edwin Landseer, showing scenes from the story. The collection also includes paintings by the Coventry artist David Gee, which depict the Godiva processions which took place in the city.