Louis John Steele

Spoils to the victor

Spoils to the victor by Louis John Steele

Artwork Detail

After an extended classical training at Reigate Academy, the école des Beaux Arts in Paris and at the Florentine Accademia, Louis J. Steele emigrated to New Zealand, where he specialised in subjects from Māori history. Although he acquired a considerable knowledge of Māori culture and customs, he often deviated from fact for the sake of the aesthetic concept and the tastes of his European audience. The Spoils to the Victor has a clear affinity with the nineteenth-century European penchant for exotic subjects. The captive, half-naked Māori woman replaces the African slave or Turkish odalisque favoured by Gérôme and Delacroix. There seems little doubt that her presence is for the benefit of the male gaze rather than an objective illustration of a Māori custom related to victory in intertribal battle. Whereas history paintings were commonly grand in scale, the small size of this composition perhaps reflects local prudishness towards portrayals of the nude. Steele was a colourful figure on the Auckland art scene with his bohemian fashions and manner, teaching life drawing and study from the antique in his studio in Victoria Arcade. (from the Guide, 2001)

Spoils to the victor
Production date
oil on panel
525 x 411 x 45 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Auckland Picture Purchase Fund, 1912
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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