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

A seated female figure covering her ears for 'The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon'

Details
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
A seated female figure covering her ears for 'The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon'
black, brown, and blue chalk on paper
12 1/8 x 6 3/8 in. (30.8 x 16.3 cm.)
Provenance
with Peter Nahum, London, where purchased by the present owners.
Literature
P. Nahum, Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and their Century, 1989, vol. I, p. 84, no. 73, vol. II, pl. 54b.
Special notice

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

The present drawing is a study for one of the attendant queens sitting with King Arthur's feet in her lap in The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon (Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico, fig. 1). Burne-Jones study of the nude seated form, prior to depicting the draped figure that we see in the painting, demonstrates his working practice and the importance he placed on fully understanding the mechanics of the human form. A photograph taken by Frederick Hollyer during the painting of the picture, shows that the figures were laid in nude and then 'dressed' at a later stage; the present drawing was copied almost exactly for the figure in the picture.

Begun in 1881, Burne-Jones was still working on the final details of the picture at his death. It was the artist's largest work; so large, that he took a special studio for it in Campden Hill. It marks a return to the Arthurian legends that had so fascinated him and William Morris as young men. Begun as a commission from his friend and patron, George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, it was intended for the library at Naworth Castle, Howard's Cumbrian seat. However, as it progressed it acquired increasing personal significance, becoming a 'swan-song into which the artist poured his deepest feelings' (S. Wildman and J. Christian, Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian Artist-Dreamer, New York, 1998, p. 315). As early as 1882, Howard acknowledged his friend's attachment to the work and, probably realising that he was unlikely to see the finished work for a long time, resigned his right to the commission and the artist painted a 'simpler scheme' for the library.

A slighter sketch of the head and shoulders of the same figure was sold in these Rooms, 11 December 2014, lot 24.






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