Odysseus in the Cave of the Naiads
Moore created six drawings in 1944 to illustrate Edward Sackville-West’s The Rescue, a play for BBC Radio with music by Benjamin Britten. The Rescue was based on the end of Homer’s Odyssey and recounts Odysseus’ return to Ithaca and the subsequent slaying of the suitors who were competing to marry his wife Penelope. Odysseus in the Cave of the Naiads depicts Odysseus asleep in Ithaca, where he had been taken by the Phaeacians. The image portrays the way he is described in the play, ‘with his face to the opening, so that the dawn may wake him, if the goddess wills’.  Although the cave may seem menacing, Odysseus had in fact been returned to safety.
This version of the drawing differs from the one illustrated in the book. In the book, the figure fills more of the composition, becoming the central focus, rather than the cave. Furthermore, the cropping shows only one edge of the cave, so the effect of the eerily receding void is eliminated. The drawing depicting the full extremities of the cave closely links this drawing to Moore’s drawings of the London Underground during the Blitz, in which the sheltering figures were often dwarfed by the tunnel. The tunnels in Moore’s shelter drawings are often compared to caves, but this classical subject renders the mythology of the cave literal.
Moore annotated his notebook sketch for this drawing with the description: ‘on a ledge in the rock with his face to the opening of the cave, head resting on a red-brown fleece cap. He wakens and talks to himself. Cavern at dawn – cavern some little distance from the sea. Age of Odysseus 45 – pointed beard?’ 
The play was broadcast in 1943 and was subsequently published as text alongside Moore’s drawings in 1945. The literary subject may seem unusual for Moore, but he also illustrated a number of literary volumes, including Prometheus (1950), Auden Poems (1974) and La Poésie (1974).
Tania Moore, September 2020
 Graham Beal in Steven Hooper, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, vol. I (New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with University of East Anglia, 1997), p.39.
'Henry Moore at Dulwich Picture Gallery', Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 12/5/2004 - 12/9/2004
Edward Sackville-West, The rescue, a melodrama for broadcasting, based on Homer’s Odyssey. Orchestral score by Benjamin Britten, with six illustrations to the text by Henry Moore (London: Secker and Warburg, 1945)
Ann Garrould, Anita Feldman Bennett and Ian Dejardin, Henry Moore at Dulwich Picture Gallery (London: Scala Publishers, 2004)
Tania Moore, Henry Moore: Friendships and Legacies (Norwich: Sainsbury Centre, 2020)
Purchased by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury from Roland Browse and Delbanco in 1948.
Donated to the University of East Anglia in 1973 (Sainsbury Centre).
Not on display
Title/Description: Odysseus in the Cave of the Naiads
Artist/Maker: Henry Moore
Object Type: Drawing
Materials: Charcoal, Crayon, Ink, Paper, Pencil, Wash, Wax crayon
Measurements: Unframed: (h. 450 x w. 290 x d. 1 mm) Framed: (h. 660 x w. 485 x d. 35 mm)
Accession Number: 97
Historic Period: 20th century
Production Place: Britain, England, Europe
Copyright: © Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation
Credit Line: Donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, 1973