Oil painting
Oil on canvas
119 cm × 198 cm (47 in × 78 in)

Wikimedia Commons

Consulting the Oracle is an oil painting by the English artist John William WaterhouseEnglish artist known primarily for his depictions of women set in scenes from myth, legend or poetry. He is the best known of that group of artists who from the 1880s revived the literary themes favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites. (1849–1917), completed in 1884. The Illustrated London News considered it to be “one of the principal works of the year” following its exhibition at the Royal Academy.[1]

The art critic Anthony Hobson has described the composition as resembling the shape of a keyhole, with seven young women sitting in a semicircle, focused on the priestess at the left.[2] She is gesturing for silence as she strains to hear the low voice foretelling future events issuing from the Teraph, a mummified human head fixed to the wall, surrounded by lamps.[1]

The painting was purchased by the sugar refiner and philanthropist Sir Henry Tate for £900, equivalent to about £100,000 as at 2021,[a]Calculated using the retail price index.[3] and was one of the sixty-five he donated to the National Gallery of British Art in 1894, now known as the Tate.[1]


a Calculated using the retail price index.[3]



Hobson, Anthony. The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse, RA, 1849–1917. Studio Vista/Christie’s, 1980.
MeasuringWorth. Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present. 2020, https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ukcompare/.