Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)

Alice la Belle Pèlerine

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
Alice la Belle Pèlerine
signed with initials 'EBJ' (lower left)
pencil and black ink, heightened with white, on vellum; the head and shoulders on a subsidiary piece of vellum
10 x 5 ¾ in. (25.5 x 14.5 cm.)
Acquired from the artist by Richard Mills (†); Christie's, London, 13 April 1908, lot 3 (25 gns to Gooden & Fox).
Roberto Longhi.
Pietro Maria Bardi, the creator of the Art Museum in Sao Paolo, Brazil, by whom purchased in the 1920s.
For many years in the family of the present owner.
Listed by the artist under 1858 in an early sketchbook (Victoria and Albert Museum, no. 91, D. 37).
Listed by the artist under 1859 in his autograph work-record (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).
M. Bell, Sir Edward Burne-Jones: A Record and Review, 4th ed., London, 1898, pp. 21, 128.
F. De Lisle, Burne-Jones, London, 1904, pp. 47, 187.
J. Christian (ed.), Burne-Jones, London, 1975, p. 20, under no. 12.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Drawings and Studies by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bart, 1899, no. 18, lent by Richard Mills.
Sale room notice
Please note that the Tate have requested the loan of this drawing for their forthcoming Burne-Jones exhibition, which will take place October 2018-February 2019.

Brought to you by

Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

Lot Essay

Alice la Belle Pèlerine is an early work in pen and ink by the artist; only about ten finished examples are known. They begin with The Waxen Image (1856) and the last drawing in the group is an illustration to Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford). That work dates from 1861, the year Burne-Jones exchanged pen-and-ink for watercolour as his primary means of expression.

In January 1856 Burne-Jones met Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and found that he too was a devotee of the medium. However, Burne-Jones's use of the pen was always drier and more finicky than Rossetti's, and this suggests another influence. John Ruskin was almost as much admired by Burne-Jones and his Oxford friend William Morris as Rossetti himself. They met him for the first time in November 1856, and Ruskin may well have encouraged the young artist to persevere with pen-and-ink. In The Elements of Drawing, Ruskin urges his readers to begin with this medium and advocates a method very similar to that adopted by Burne-Jones, in which tones are built up with minute touches and dots and the pen-knife used to soften forms and erase unwanted lines.

Equally significant was the use Ruskin made of Dürer's prints as teaching instruments. He was collecting them eagerly from the early 1850s and constantly lending them to those he was trying to guide and influence. The Elements of Drawing abounds in references to Dürer's engravings. Burne-Jones was undoubtedly familiar with Dürer's work long before he left Oxford in 1856, but there can be little doubt either that Ruskin lent him examples and encouraged him to study them. He was certainly to give Burne-Jones a group of Dürer's most important engravings and woodcuts in 1865.

Alice la Belle Pèlerine belongs to a group of drawings that forms a distinct sub-section of these early drawings. Dating from 1858, and executed on vellum, they represent the prevailing medievalism at its most intense and characteristic. The other drawings in the group are the Fogg's Sir Galahad, the Fitzwilliam's Going to the Battle, The Knight's Farewell (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), and Kings' Daughters, which was sold at Sotheby's, London, 20 November 2002.

Malory and Froissart were the crucial literary sources for the circle's medievalism. Rossetti referred to his current watercolours as having 'chivalric Froissartian themes'. The two authors inspired most of the poems in Morris's first volume of poetry, The Defence of Guenevere, published in March 1858, and Malory provided the subjects of the murals in the Oxford Union. Burne-Jones's drawings, which were executed in the months immediately following his return from Oxford in February 1858, are yet another example. The subject of Alice la Belle Pèlerine also derives from the Morte d'Arthur. Alice is an obscure figure in the story of Sir Tristram, falling in love with Sir Alisander le Orphelin (Sir Alexander the Orphan), whose family has been persecuted by King Mark of Cornwall. The scallop shells that adorn her bodice are traditional symbols of the pilgrim.

Little is known of Richard Mills, the drawing's first owner; he owned another pen and ink drawing by Burne-Jones, Going to the Battle, and several other Pre-Raphaelite works. Three days before the auction in April 1908 a separate sale had been devoted to Mills's extensive collection of Chinese porcelain, suggesting that he had been much influenced by the ideals of the Aesthetic movement. He was one of the connoisseurs who supported and ran the Burlington Fine Arts Club. Alice la Belle Pèlerine was bought by Gooden and Fox, and we next hear of it belonging to the Italian art-historian Roberto Longhi. Longhi's fellow art-historian Bernard Berenson also owned an early work by Burne-Jones, the watercolour version of Sidonia von Bork. It is even possible that Longhi owed something to Berenson in this respect as the two men were friends.

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