The Story of Alma-Tadema and the Epps Family
Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a talented furniture designer and a leading Victorian painter. He worked on this screen with his pupil, Laura Epps, who later became his second wife. It shows Laura's family, several of whom are in Aesthetic-style dress. The colouring and asymmetry of the composition show the influence of Japan, while the inscription attempts a Medieval look. The painting shows the Epps family at dinner and seems to have been abandoned when the two artists married in July 1871.
The inscription, taken from one of Aesop's fables, celebrates the importance of a united family: 'It was the hap of a very honest man to be the father of a brood of children. He call'd for a bundle of arrows and bad 'em take it and try one after another, with all their force, if they could break it. They try'd and could not. Well, says he, unbind it now, and take every arrow of it apart and see what you can do that way. They did so, and with great ease, by one and one, they snap'd it all to pieces. This says he is the true emblem of your condition. Keep together and y'are safe.'
Listen to the story behind the making of the screen painting: