Here’s the story behind John Collier’s ‘Lady Godiva’ painting
A week ago, Beyoncé gave fans a tease of what’s to come with her upcoming album “Renaissance” with the release of the song “Break My Soul.” Sure enough, the global Beyhive is buzzing about the new anthem. This time, the “Lemonade” singer unveils the album’s cover. Captured by photographer Carlijn Jacobs, Beyoncé is seen wearing a metallic look atop a luminous horse.
“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment,” Beyoncé wrote in the caption. “A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, [and] feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration. I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.”
While the 40-year-old Grammy-winning artist didn’t mention any reference for the cover art, fans have been commenting online about the image’s resemblance to the 1880/1898 “Lady Godiva” painting by John Maler Collier, OBE. The artwork centers on the apocryphal ride of Lady Godiva, the wife of the Earl of Mercer and Lord of Coventry, Leofric.
According to the legend, Lady Godiva begged Leofric to stop putting heavy taxes on the people of Coventry. Her husband would only agree to it if she rode naked through the town. And the woman did. Lady Godiva went on a stroll while riding a horse in the nude, only her long tresses covering her body. According to a story by the BBC, the streets were silent as people remain indoors and didn’t watch her, except for one man, Peeping Tom, who, before he could gaze on Lady Godiva, was immediately struck blind as a punishment.
Apart from Collier, other artists such as Edwin Landseer and Alfred Woolmer have produced artworks inspired by the legend. The 1880/1898 painting is now part of Coventry’s The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum’s collection. Discover more about the collection here.
Photo credits: Banner image from @beyonce on Instagram; 1880/1898 “Lady Godiva” painting image from Google Arts and Culture.