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Neoclassical, Art, Mythology, Ceres, Fresco Design, Antique Watercolor, c. 1875


Ceres [Classical Design for Plaster Wall]
British: Late 19th Century, probably c. 1875
Ink and wash on paper
16.5 x 24 inches, image
19 x 26.5 inches, overall including black border

Classically inspired competition design for a plaster wall, executed en grisaille in blue and grey tones. The design is centered on an oval image with a depiction of the Roman earth goddess Ceres, seated on a chariot drawn by a griffin. The imagery generally reflects Ceres’s role in Roman mythology as the goddess of grain and agricultural fertility. The oval is surrounded by four roundel male heads, two wreathed in wheat, two in grape leaves. In each corner, young men in togas perform agricultural tasks, perhaps intended to represent four of the 12 minor gods who assisted Ceres with agricultural tasks (e.g. Insitor who sowed, and Obarator, who plowed). Below the oval a pair of cornucopias are filled with agricultural produce, and above is a sheaf of wheat. Ceres also holds a torch, emblematic of her association with the Roman tradition of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The whole is in a classical border with rosettes in the corners and center.

Product Description Continues Below.


The offered Ceres work is accompanied by a handwritten card that probably is a section of the mat it was originally framed with. The label states this was an entry “In Competition for the prizes of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers [sic] London.” A surviving fragment of a paper label shows part of the artist’s name, and his or her age, 21.

The Worshipful Company of Plaisterers is a plasterers’ trade guild based in London that was chartered in 1501, and continues as the British association for plasterers and dryline (drywall) finishers today. The organization ran art student competitions as early as 1875, when the Journal of the Royal Dublin Society reported that one of the students in its School of Art had won an award from the Plaisterers for a wall design (a so called “diaper” repeating pattern):

In a Competition for Prizes offered by the Worshipful Company of Plasterers of London, for a Design, in Monochromo, for a Wall Diaper, the Hon. E. Plunket succeeded in obtaining one of the two awards.

A design of very considerable merit, also for Wall Diaper, and forwarded to the same competition, by Mr. Thomas Scott, was purchased, with a view to manufacture, by Samuel Hubert, Esq., the chief promoter of the Prizes offered by the Plasterers’ Company.

Insofar as the title on the label accompanying the Ceres work is also the same as the title of the prize as reported in 1875 (both wall designs), it may be presumed that Ceres was another work entered in that competition, or one shortly before or after.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Tape residue verso from where formerly hinged. Fragments of original entry label affixed upper right. Competition title label, presumably from former matting, included as separate piece.


Ashby, Alicia. Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean, ed. “Ceres, the Goddess of Grain.” 28 November 2001. Roanoke College. (26 April 2005).

Journal of the Royal Dublin Society. v.6 (1872-75) Royal Dublin Society: 1875. pp. 159, 164. Online at 9 April 2007. (25 September 2007).

Additional information


19th Century