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Oil painting - The Judgment of Solomon (after Raphael)
  • The Judgment of Solomon (after Raphael)
    Sykes, Godfrey, born 1824 - died 1866
  • Enlarge image

The Judgment of Solomon (after Raphael)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    pre 1867 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sykes, Godfrey, born 1824 - died 1866 (painter (artist))
    Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case BOX, shelf 74, box II

Godfrey Sykes (1824-1866) was a key figure in the decoration of the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria and Albert Museum). Having begun his professional career as an apprentice to a Sheffield engraver, and later worked for himself designing showcards and silverware, in 1843 Sykes enrolled at the newly-opened Sheffield School of Design. This was one of the government schools established to enable working craftsmen to learn the elements of design. Sykes was appointed assistant master at the school in 1856. His association with the Museum began in 1859 when he was recruited by Henry Cole to assist with the decorative schemes for the 1862 Exhibition (the successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851) and the new Horticultural Society's garden buildings. Sykes's use of terracotta for external decoration prompted the decision to use it for the new museum buildings. As John Physick notes, 'Sykes was so highly regarded that the Board decided that "his views on questions of decoration [were] to be adopted in future."' (Physick, p, 58.) Sykes went on to design elaborate decorative schemes for the principal parts of the new museum buildings: the North and South Courts and the Prince Consort's Gallery.

Only three years before his own early death of a lung infection in 1866, Sykes designed the tomb in Kensal Green cemetery of another artist whose work was exceptionally well represented in the Museum's collections, William Mulready (1786-1863). Following his death, the South Kensington Museum held a memorial exhibition of his oil paintings, which included landscapes and genre scenes, and his architectural drawings.

The Judgement of Solomon is a scaled-down oil replica of a ceiling fresco in the Vatican’s Stanze della Segnatura, painted by the great Renaissance master Raphael. It depicts the famous Biblical scene in which two women come to King Solomon in order to settle the dispute over who was the mother of a child. After Solomon orders the baby to be cut in half, one of the women agrees to give up the child, her reaction revealing her to be the true mother. Sykes also made a copy of Raphael’s Fall of Man, which appears in the same ceiling painting as The Judgement of Solomon. The purpose of Sykes’ copies is likely to have been educational, allowing art students in London proxy access to works by Renaissance artists. Like many other works by Sykes in the Museum’s collection, this painting was purchased the year after his death, following a retrospective exhibition.


pre 1867 (painted)


Sykes, Godfrey, born 1824 - died 1866 (painter (artist))
Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 18 in estimate, Width: 14.5 in estimate

Object history note

Purchased, 1867

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Judgment of Solomon', Godfrey Sykes (after Raphael)


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting


Paintings; History of the V&A


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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