The present lot is a study for the head of Perseus in The Call of Perseus (Southampton City Art Gallery), from the eponymous series which Burne-Jones began in 1875. The cycle was commissioned for the music room of the Conservative politician, Arthur Balfour (1848-1940) who served as Prime Minister between 1902-1906. Balfour left the subject entirely open for Burne-Jones’s interpretation, and the artist selected the Legend of Perseus as his inspiration, using William Morris’s Earthly Paradise for his source material. In typical fashion Burne-Jones produced a wealth of preliminary material, filling an entire sketchbook from July 1875 until his death with related drawings - many on the distinctive terracotta paper used here. The technique of this drawing suggests a date of around 1890, and the model appears to be Giacinto, a favourite of Burne-Jones in the late 1880s and 1890s who appears as the pilgrim in Love and the Pilgrim (Tate) and Sir Gawain in The Summons: Knights of the Round Table Summoned to the Quest by a Strange Damsel (tapestry at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery).
We are grateful to the Burne-Jones Catalogue Raisonné Foundation (eb-j.org) for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.