The Favourites of the Emperor Honorius 1883

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Favorites_of_the_Emperor_Honorius_-_1883Date: 1883
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 117 x 202 cm
Location: Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

John William Waterhouse's painting “Indecisiveness in The Favourites Of The Emperor Honorius” (1883) features a portrait of the Roman emperor, Honorius, who is feeding birds on a brown rug. While the rest of the composition is occupied by councilors, the portrait shows a man who seems unfazed by the dangers that threaten Rome. However, ancient mythology suggests that Honorius was not so eager to join the council as he was to feed birds.

The painting was created in a series of studies by John William Waterhouse prior to the completion of the final artwork. The first study, entitled “Indecisiveness,” used a different perspective, while the second study, titled “The Favourites Of The Emperor Honorius,” utilized a brighter color palette. The second study, called “Indecisiveness,” features a similar composition and brushstrokes in shades of gray. Both paintings were painted during Honorius's reign, which lasted from 393 to 423, and during this time, the city of Rome was attacked.