OIL PAINTING: In the Tepidarium, 1881
The tepidarium was the warm Roman bath. This painting of Alma Tadema shows a girl holding an ostrich feather and a strigel used for scraping the skin after soaping and oiling it. Alma-Tadema generally contrasted archaeologically accurate detail with aggressively modern figures and attitudes. He was also the most gifted exponent among Victorian painters in rendering exactly textures, surfaces and colours.
This combination of learning and realism proved very disconcerting when applied to the nude. It is surprising that A and F Pears, who owned this painting - In the Tepidarium before Leverhulme purchased it in 1916, could ever have considered using it in a soap advertisement, however appropriate for the purpose it may be.