Painting Of Lady Godiva – Uncovering The Facts From Fiction

Painting of Lady Godiva with the text beside "Painting Of Lady Godiva - Uncovering The Facts From Fiction"

Paintings have always inspired people, but these are more than just works of art with brush strokes on canvas.

A painting always has a narrative to share, some truths to tell, symbolism to show, and many more.

A deeper meaning, colors, lights, thoughts, and inspiration add to its allure.

With numerous famous paintings around the world, there are some that have a naked history.

John Collier was a British painter known for works with dramatic themes and landscapes.

Paintings like “Lady Godiva (Godgifu) by John Collier” are one of the examples that blow people’s minds with their portrayal of nudity and the history that lies behind it.

Here, with the thought of going into deep research about Lady Godiva painting, we have covered not just the history but also all the factors that revolve around the artwork.

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I. The Origin – Revealing the Truth

A portrait by W. Hamilton of Lady Godiva intervening for the people of Coventry.
Image: pintsofhistory

Nude paintings have been in culture for a long period of time now.

It has always been the most captivating piece, which has counted as the most controversial artworks among people.

Lady Godiva is also one of them and she has been in the public eye due to the nudity of Godiva depicted in the artwork.

Who was Lady Godiva, and what is her background story, is the question at hand.

The Lady Godiva story is about a noble woman who begged in front of her own husband to stop the heavy taxes on the people of Coventry.

Her husband, Leofric, said he would do as she says if Godiva rode naked through Coventry.

In order to help people, she accepted the challenge and rode around the streets with her long hair covering her body.

The people of town stayed inside and didn’t look at her except for Peeping Tom.

Later he received a struck blind as a punishment.

As per the challenge, Leofric removed the taxes on the people of Coventry.

Godiva became the first woman to be mentioned in the Doomsday book and the only lady to own a property after Norman.

It was the story of a lady who fought for her people, even if she had to sacrifice her dignity.

II. The Theory – Legend of the Naked Ride

A portrait by Edmund Leighton of Lady Godiva and her husband, Leofric
Image : wikimedia

The main secret lies in the thought that brought the painting into existence in the first place.

The poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson inspired John Collier to create a painting that depicts the symbolism of Lady Godiva.

Anglo-Saxon noblewoman is one of the name of Lady Godiva.

Second theory is the “nakedness” describing in John language.

Unlike many famous painters, he showed Lady Godiva in such a position that none of the parts were visible.

The posture is slightly inclined towards the front, showing the modesty of Godiva, which speaks about the thought of Collier as an artist.

III. Impact that led to the Creation of the Art

A self portrait of John Collier who is the artist of Lady Godiva painting.
Image : wikimedia

After the story of Lady Godiva became famous among the people, numerous artists tried to incorporate her into their works.

In 1840, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a poem called “Godiva” describing the whole scenario that took place.

John Collier, as an artist, was highly influenced by the poem.

He chose to incorporate the words into his painting in accordance with the ideas and emotions he experienced while reading them.

This led to the creation of the “Lady Godiva” painting.

It is known as one of the most famous works of art by John Collier.

Do you know which part of the poem influenced Collier more?

The part that says,

“Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:

The deep air listen’d round her as she rode,

And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.”

(Also read: Famous Italian Artists)

IV. What does Lady Godiva symbolize?

A painting of Lady Godiva by artist George Jones.
Image: media.tate

The thoughts, symbolism, and ideas that inspire art not only add a different touch to the painting but also give a perspective on the artist.

The painting by John Collier portrays the symbolism of protest, banishment, and women’s empowerment.

The lady is shown as a feminist icon who stood up for the rights of her people.

A woman like Godiva made a greater contribution to the new feminism world during a time when women were viewed as merely domestic helpers.

We can say that this contribution was a significant step toward the development of women’s emancipation in later years.

V. The Analysis Of Lady Godiva

Edwin Landseer image of prayer Lady Godiva.
Image: arthive

The structure plays the most important role in leading to the bigger picture for the artwork.

In the Lady Godiva painting, all the secret lies in the small composition that creates a great impact on the viewer.

The center of interest, Godiva, is all decorated with the long, tangled hair that covers her body, and her bowed head depicts her modesty with no humiliation or fear.

The royal horse, embroidered with gold chains, has a saddle and a naked horseback riding (Godiva) on it.

The young, nude woman in a lean posture during the pre-Raphaelite period, which Collier has elegantly portrayed, is what captivates the eyes of the audience.

“Nudity” is the morality that speaks about the naked truth of how there are two types of people: hypocrites and people with integrity.

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VI. The Texture

Illuminating the texture from the painting of Lady Godiva
Image: wikimedia

The small details in the art give it a magnificent look, especially when the artist has a vision that is eventually delivered to the viewers.

Lady Godiva (painting) is an oil on canvas that pass out an authentic look because of its vivid colors.

It creates a dreamlike feel that absorbs the charm and mystery of this sensual artwork, a vision of an ideal beauty.

Each brushstroke shows the perspective of John on how he had the vision for the painting after reading the poem by Tennyson.

The light is soft and smooth, which gives an idea about the time the event must have taken place.

How can we miss the second main character of the painting, the royal horse?

An event that took place way back in time has to be painted according to the exact sight and thought that must have occurred.

This led with a thought to paint the horse in the same look the way it appeared during that period of time.

Collier’s use of color, texture, and pattern to depict the time period and give this landscape  painting a vintage appearance is astounding.

VII. Hidden Truths About Godiva

A 1891 painting of Lady Godiva by Jules Joseph Lefebvre from a medieval times.
Image: wikimedia

The painting Lady Godiva is all about Godiva as a woman who took a stand for the people of Coventry.
But do you know some facts that reveal a different side of Godiva? Let’s acknowledge them:

  • Godiva was into charity, she used to contribute a huge amount of money to churches.
  • She lived from 1040-1080, but the question of where Godiva’s body is, still clueless.
  • She was called the Goddess of Engineering but the connection between her and engineering is still a mystery.
  • She also appears on the logo of a Coventry building.
  • The film “Lady Godiva of Coventry” and the book named “Naked” were first to feature Godiva. If you are a bibliophile and into readings then get the book “Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva.”
  • Herbert Art Gallery holds many Victorian paintings of her.
  • Godiva week is held every winter in the University of Toronto to encourage the young people and mind.

VIII. Recognition

Lady Godiva painting by Marshall Claxton produced in 1850
Image: wikimedia

A painting that is famous all over the world must have some accomplishments attached to it as a badge of honor.

John Collier, as a painter, has made numerous paintings of women, but this is considered his most renowned work of art.

Currently, Lady Godiva painting is on display at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry.

If you look for the exact worth of this painting, there is no price added to it, but given how famous this art is, we can estimate that it would have been beyond one’s imagination.

Does this amazing artwork have your attention?

No worries; although the price is not estimated, you can still get a replica of this graceful artwork at an affordable price.

IX. Its Appeal Today

Sculpture of Lady Godiva by John Thomas is currently housed in Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery.
Image: wikimedia

Roger Wendover first recorded the story in the late 1100s, more than a century after Godiva’s passing.

The tale was featured in different cultures through artwork, film, poetry, and even a Lady Godiva song.

Each artist had their own way to showcase the Lady Godiva history.

In present time, the painting of Lady Godiva comes up as a feminist icon for women. 

The courage and bravery that Godiva showed in front of her husband and the people of Coventry make it remarkable.

The character, which was introduced years ago, is still known for her protest and the steps she took during such a period.


The painting always holds a secret or story that is either famous or known only by a few. 

But what it seldom portrays is the meaning and the thoughts behind the artwork.

I would like to mention a famous quote by John Collier that somehow describes the art in a better way:

“There is no difficulty in painting detail, the real difficulty lies in getting the general truth of tone and tint.”

John Collier

(Suggested read: The Card Players by Paul Cézanne)

X. Personal Insights

A mockup of museum showcasing Lady Godiva painting by John Collier
Image: wikimedia

We have learned about the Lady Godiva painting and the history that it follows.

But have you ever seen the painting from your own perspective?

What if you entered an art gallery and took your first glance at Lady Godiva? 

What thoughts would cross your mind?

From my point of view, my first thought about the painting Lady Godiva was that it is an art that depicts the nudity and eroticism of a woman.

A naked lady who is riding on a royal horse has her head slightly inclined in the downward position, which indicates discomfort.

The artwork also gives an idea about the painter’s mindset and thoughts.

John Collier and his interest in showing female posture and body in a nudist position create a perspective about him.

Maybe he is into erotic arts, or shows pleasure in human suffering, or is captivated by the woman’s body.

There are numerous opinions that have made up my mind before going into the real truth behind the art.

Well, this insight about the art and the artist is something that I gain knowledge from while looking at the picture.

It might differ from yours, which is natural.

As a reader, you know the story, but do share your personal insights about the art at – “Arpita Parashar

I’ll be curious to know about the painting through different eyes!

Heya Readers

Thanks for reading the blog, “Painting of Lady Godiva – Uncovering the Facts from Fiction.”

I hope you find the writing relevant and informative in every way possible.

If you have come up with some additional material while reading this blog, please feel free to write to us in the comment section below.

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Is Lady Godiva a goddess?

The legendary story of Lady Godiva reached the ears of every individual. It is said that some refer to her as a goddess, and others refer to her as a saint.

Who was the tailor who looked at Lady Godiva?

The tailor who looked at Lady Godiva was Peeping Tom. After the incident, its consequences were harsh, and he was struck blind as a punishment.

What is the moral of the Lady Godiva story?

The answer to this question is simple: sacrifice your majesty for the sake of helping people, and never be a “Peeping Tom.”

Was Lady Godiva a feminist icon?

Yes, Godiva was a feminist icon who inspired women for centuries.

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