SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES, BT., A.R.A., R.W.S. | Four Studies for The Story of Psyche
Property from an American Private Collection
SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES, BT., A.R.A., R.W.S.
1833 - 1898
Four Studies for The Story of Psyche
all pencil on tracing-paper
each 11 by 8cm., 4¼ by 3¼in.
The sheets in each case are delicate and are time-stained and a little discoloured. They are all flat. The scene depicting Pygmalion playing a musical instrument has a small pinhole approximately 1cm above his head and a restored surface abrasion or tear to the organ-pipes. The scene depicting Pygmailion at the altar has a restored tear or crease from the centre of the right edge through the figure (this is only visible upon close inspection). The scene depicting Pygmalion and Galatea embracing has a stain to her dress which may be a restoration.
The drawings are contained in clean mounts with perspex front and back to protect them - they are all contained in simple wooden frames and under glass.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Given by the artist to Charles Eliot Norton, Boston and thence by descent to his daughter Elizabeth, by whom donated to a charity auction;
Private collection, USA
These are four of forty-five designs made by Burne-Jones for wood engravings, illustrating the story of Cupid and Psyche for a lavish publication of William Morris' The Earthly Paradise, which was ultimately abandoned.
A large group of a hundred sketches and designs for The Earthly Paradise illustrations are in the collection at Birmingham City Art Gallery. Within a bound volume of eighty-six designs for episodes in the saga of Psyche is a letter from Burne-Jones’ assistant, Charles Fairfax Murray, which describes another group of drawings for the project (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford): ' A series of designs for the Story of Cupid & Psyche illustrating the 'Earthly Paradise' mounted in a volume. The drawings presented by Mr Ruskin to the Oxford University [in the collection of the Ashmolean] are on tracing paper and in every respect similar in technique to the designs for the 'Hill of Venus' and 'Pygmalion' have exhibited. Once the main comp[osition] was settled the design was forwarded and completed by successive tracings enabling the artist to correct or develop the designs with comparatively trifling labour. The process as far as we know was only used by the artist for the drawings prepared for the engravings for the Earthly Paradise and was not his usual practice.'
One of the compositions depicts the marriage of Pygmalion and Galatea in the temple of the God of Betrothal, Hymen. In the background is the winged figure of Cupid and his mother Venus who holds out the Apple of Discord awarded to her during the Judgement of Paris. The composition is identical to a later gouache painting executed by Burne-Jones in 1874.
These drawings were given to Burne-Jones' friend Charles Eliot Norton, a Harvard professor and editor of North American Review. Burne-Jones painted a beautiful portrait of his daughter Sara in 1884.