WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
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Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s F… Read more
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)


WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
Worked in a thick polychrome wool floss on a plain-woven linen depicting a fruit tree with birds and cranes, the tree wrapped with a garland depicting creatures and the motto 'Qui bien aime tard oublie' [who loves well, forgets slowly], together with a half panel of the same pattern
70 in. (177.8 cm.) long, 54 in. (137.2 cm.) wide
William Bell Scott and Alice Boyd (1825–1897), 14th Laird, Penkill Castle, Ayrshire Scotland (the half panel).
By repute, to her stepfather Henry Courtney.
Thence by descent to Eleanor Margaret Courtney Boyd (1864-1946), 15th Laird, Penkill Castle (the half panel).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 11 May 2000, lot 4 (the half panel).
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above.
William Morris, exh. cat., Victoria & Albert Museum, 9 May-1 September 1996, London, Cat. No. M.5, p. 235 (the half panel).
Jan Marsh and Liz Woods, 'Pilgrimage to Penkill', The Order of the Owl: Quarterly Journal of the Penkill Foundation, Vol. 6, No. 4, Autumn, 1991, p. 3 (the half panel).
Catalog of Christie's Penkill Castle House sale, 15 December 1992, introduction (the half panel).
A. Mason, ed., William Morris, London, 2021, p. 277, no. XII.2.
Special notice
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

Brought to you by

Elizabeth Seigel
Elizabeth Seigel Vice President, Specialist, Head of Private and Iconic Collections

Lot Essay

Despite being known most predominantly for his fashionable and influential designs for textiles, wallpaper and rugs, William Morris started his artistic endeavors with embroidery. Morris married Jane Burden in 1859, who was to become an accomplished artist and favorite model of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood in her own right. In the early years of their marriage, the two lived at Red House in Bexleyheath, and were known to work on embroidery together. The couple's fascination with the historical and medieval even led them to collect and dismantle existing embroideries to hone their technique. It is likely that this design was inspired by an illustration in a fifteenth-century manuscript in the collection of the British Museum. The French inscription, ‘Qui Bien Aime Tard Oublie’ is taken from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem ‘Parliament of Fowls’. The initial iteration of this early embroidery would have hung at Red House and was likely stitched by William, Jane and possibly her sister Elizabeth Burden (see the William Morris Gallery, cat. no. F390ii).
Another identical wall hanging was installed at Penkill Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland, the home of Alice Boyd (1825–1897), artist and member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. In a letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) to Boyd in 1868, the embroidery is likely mentioned as 'the Topsaic tapestries', which references William Morris's nickname 'Topsy' (see O. Doughty and J.R. Wahl, The Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Oxford, 1965-67, II, pp. 675-676). The embroidery design was likely produced and sold in the early days of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. after it was founded in 1861, and potentially shown at the 1862 International Exhibition (see A. Mason, William Morris, London, 2021, p. 277).

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