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Vente de l'atelier de l'artiste, Christie's, Londres, 16 juillet 1898, lot 58; d'où acquis par
Robert George Windsor-Clive, Baron Windsor, futur premier Earl of Plymouth; puis par descendance au troisième Earl of Plymouth; sa vente, Sotheby's Belgravia, 19 octobre 1971, lot 94; d'où acquis par
Leger Galleries, Londres.
Hartnoll and Eyre, Ltd, Londres, octobre 1972 (leur catalogue 25, no. 4);
Vente, Maître Binoche, espace Cardin, 16 décembre 1972, lot 18; d'où acquis par
Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé.
Burne-Jones, livre de compte avec Morris en 1875 et registres de 1875 et 1880 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).
The Illustrated London News, 8 janvier 1881, p. 38.
The Athenaeum, no. 2776, 8 janvier 1881, pp. 61-62.
The Times, 10 janvier 1881, p. 4.
The Academy, no. 454, 15 janvier 1881, p. 50.
The Spectator, no. 2743, 22 janvier 1881, p. 119.
O. von Schleinitz, Burne-Jones, Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1901, pp. 63 (le vitrail correspondant, fig. 52) et 90.
A.C. Sewter, The Stained Glass of William Morris and his Circle, Yale, 1974-75, vol. 1, p. 508 (le vitrail) et vol. 2, p.7.
Londres, Grosvernor Gallery, Winter Exhibition, 1881, no. 355.
Londres, The Fine Art Society, The Aesthetic Movement and Cult of Japan, 3-27 octobre 1972, no. 4 (prêté par Hartnoll and Eyre).
Post Lot Text
PARADISE, WITH THE WORSHIP OF THE HOLY LAMB, BY SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES
WAX CRAYON OVER PENCIL, TOUCHED WITH GOLD, ON PAPER LAID DOWN ON LINEN
Executed circa 1875-1880
These magnificent drawings are pencil cartoons for stained glass that Burne-Jones subsequently coloured in wax crayon to turn them into independent works of art. The cartoons in their original form were made in April 1875 for the chancel east window in the church of All Hallows at Allerton, East Liverpool. Burne-Jones listed them both in his account book with Morris & Co, the firm responsible for making the window, and in his own work-record for that year ('a great window of Paradise'). After the windows had been executed, the cartoons were returned to him, and their later development is noted in his work-record for 1880 ('coloured in wax old design of Paradise').
The window's iconography is based on St John's vision of Heaven as described in the book of Revelation (chapter 7, verses 9-17). On a mound stands the Holy Lamb, symbolising Christ in his sacrificial role. Four rivers, emblematic of the Gospels, issue from the mound, and to the left and right are the four apocalyptic beasts that became the attributes of the Evangelists: the Angel of St Matthew, the Ox of St Luke, the Eagle of St John himself, and the lion of St Mark. In the foreground and lateral panels, angels and surprisingly youthful 'elders' worship the divine presence. As A.C. Sewter observed, 'this remarkable and beautiful design clearly owes a debt for its basic conception to Van Eyck's altarpiece at Ghent'. Unlike his two closest associates, D.G. Rossetti and William Morris, Burne-Jones never actually saw this famous painting, but he was undoubtedly familiar with it through reproductions, borrowing motifs from it elsewhere.
Burne-Jones was a prolific designer of stained glass throughout his career. For years it provided him with bread-and-butter work, but it was never drudgery. On the contrary, it offered him the perfect outlet for his astonishing powers of invention and love of linear expression. He was an experienced hand even before the foundation of the Morris firm in 1861, and from then on he was Morris's chief supplier of cartoons, assuming full responsibility for them when the original partnership was dissolved in 1875. It has been calculated that between 1872 and 1878, the period of his greatest output, he drew more than 270 cartoons, an average of 39 a year.
A few of Burne-Jones's earliest cartoons are coloured, but after 1861 they are nearly all in monochrome, whether sepia wash, charcoal or pencil. The choice of colours for the windows would be left to Morris, Burne-Jones merely supplying the shaded outlines. Since he was much admired for his sense of colour as a painter, this practice has often caused surprise. 'Who like him', his friend W. Graham Robertson recalled, 'could have arranged the jewelled splendour of stained glass, fitting the bits of glowing colour into their setting of leaden tracery? Yet (a few very early windows) are the only instances in which he attempted to do so.'
Perhaps aware of this anomaly, Burne-Jones did in fact sometimes reclaim his cartoons and colour them. A number dating from the 1860s were worked up in bodycolour to form easel pictures, the sepia wash that he currently favoured becoming in effect a monochrome underpainting. He returned to the idea in the late 1870s, although now adding colour in the medium of wax chalk. It is no accident that his stained glass designs were becoming increasingly pictorial at this period, making it logical to turn them into quasi-canvases or murals.
The present Paradise designs are important examples of this later phenomenon. Others are an equally colossal Last Judgement (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery), also designed in 1875, for the east window in the church of St Michael and St Mary Magdalene at Easthampstead in Berkshire; two powerful compositions, Angeli Laudantes and Angeli Ministrantes (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), developed from cartoons drawn in 1878 for a window in Salisbury Cathedral; and a group of designs (William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, and elsewhere) made in 1880 for the east window of St Martin's Church, Brampton, in Cumberland. This was a particularly prestigious commission from Burne-Jones's longstanding friend and patron George Howard, Earl or Carlisle, but all the cartoons worked up in this way were special. That is to say, they were not those, often single figures that Morris used again and again in different locations, but complex, one-off compositions, destined for major windows, that by definition could not be repeated. With the possible exception of the two Angeli in the Fitzwilliam, all the cartoons were coloured in 1880, the artist adopting a pale, iridescent palette that bears little relationship to the rich, saturated tones found in the corresponding windows.
Although Burne-Jones had already been paid for the cartoons by Morris (he changed £ 180 for the Allerton Paradise), he presumably hoped that by colouring them he could turn them to further financial advantage. If so, he was only partially successful. The two Angeli were brought by the Tory politician and future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, one of his most devoted patrons, but the Paradise and Last Judgment were still on his hands when he died, even though he had exhibited them at the Grosvenor Gallery in the winter of 1881. Indeed, they had been much admired by the critics, especially the Paradise. The Academy noted its 'wonderful power of expression and skill in drawing', while F. G. Stephens, writing in The Anthenaeum, praised 'the superbly beautiful disposition of the general colour (and) the marvelous variety and harmony of the local tints, (...) especially observable in the white robes, the rich verdure, and the scintillations of the spirits' wings (...) In these lovely qualities this large picture has no superior in the room.'
Perhaps it was the cartoons' enormous size that deterred buyers, although the Last Judgment was also an uncomfortable subject. At all events, both works appeared in Burne-Jones's first studio sale, held at Christie's only a month after his death in June 1898, and were bought, probably on commission, by Agnew. The Last Judgment was given to the Birmingham Art Gallery the same year by two local enthusiasts, the Hon. William Kenrick and J.R. Holliday. Burne-Jones was a native of Birmingham, and this was an early shot in the campaign to make the Art Gallery the great repository of his work that it is today. Meanwhile the Paradise, for which Agnew paid 520 guineas, was acquired by another ardent admirer, Lord Windsor, later first Earl of Plymouth.
Born in 1857, Lord Plymouth was a man of enormous wealth and genuine culture. His knowledge of art and architecture brought him the post of Commissioner of Works and a Trusteeship of the National Gallery, and in 1903 he published a study of the painter John Constable, for many years the standard book on the subject. In 1883 he married Alberta Paget, a renowned beauty who shared his artistic interests. They were leading members of the social set know as 'The Souls', a self-conscious aristocratic clique who prided themselves on their devotion to intellectual pursuits as distinct from the hunting, shooting and gambling that obsessed so many of their class.
Burne-Jones was the Souls' favourite artist. They warmed to his intense spirituality, and many of them commissioned or bought his works. However, the quintessential product of this rare accommodation between high society and progressive art was the full-length portrait of Lady Windsor that the artist began in 1893 and exhibited at the New Gallery two years later (private collection, on loan to Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery). In his austere and almost colourless late style, it is a supreme symbolist image, inviting comparison with other great examples of the genre by James McNeill Whistler or Fernand Khnopff.
In the light of this ethereal and enigmatic work, it is not surprising that the Windsors fell for the Paradise design. In fact they brought yet another picture in the artist's most transcendental vein, a cloudy affair of angels and spirits so abstract and disembodied that it must have been one of the very last things he touched. The portrait of Lady Windsor was destined for Hewell Grange, a vast neo-Jacobean mansion in Worcestershire that the couple built in the first years of their marriage. Paradise would either have hung there or in one of their two other homes, a London house at 39 Mount Street, Mayfair, and a genuine Elizabethan country house, St Fagan's Castle near Cardiff, a mellow and beautiful building set in what George Wyndham, another Soul, called 'the enchanted land of Arthurian romance'.