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Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
Property from the Collection of Lady Jane Wellesley
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)

The Masque of Cupid

Details
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
The Masque of Cupid
with inscription 'The Masque of/ Cupid. original/ sketch by E/ Burne Jones/ given me by/ him. abt 1892/ E Clifford' (right) and with further inscription 'by E. Burne Jones. (original sketch) E.C.(?)' (lower right)
Further inscribed on the reverse 'to be pack[ed] with the frame for A Williams M.P./ Bridehead/ Dorchester/ to be called for at/ Dorchester station -' and with additional inscription 'To be given to/ Lord Gerald Wellesley/ at my death/ E. Clifford' (on a label on the backboard)
pencil and watercolour on paper, laid on board, extended along the right margin
13 7/8 x 16 in. (35.3 x 40.6 cm.)
Provenance
The artist, by whom given to
Edward Clifford (1844-1907), and by bequest to
Lord Gerald Wellesley, later 7th Duke of Wellington, and by descent to the present owner.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

The subject of the present watercolour is taken from Edmund Spencer's Faerie Queene, book 3, canto 12 (published in 1590). Burne-Jones first considered this as early as 1872, naming it in his work record as one of '4 subjects which above all others I desire to paint, and count my chief designs for some years to come'. He conceived his depiction as a life-size series of three paintings. The present watercolour was executed during this period. There are also three drawings, now in the National Museum Cardiff, as well as three further drawings in Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery. The present sheet corresponds to both one of the drawings in Cardiff, which shows a similar composition but with all the figures nude, as well as one of the Birmingham drawings, titled The Masque of Cupid-Final Portion, Part II, which again shows a similar arrangement of figures but draped.

The figure to the far left of the sheet watching the procession in the house of Busirane, is Britomart, the "fair", who represents maidenly purity. The figures to the right are the 'rude, confused rout' of unhappy personifications of emotions such as Strife, Anger, Care, and Infirmity, amongst others, harried by Death, brandishing a sword.

Burne-Jones soon abandoned the scheme, only returning to it a year or two before his death. According to the catalogue of the Burlington Fine Arts Club exhibition, the artist began to work up the subject on canvas about two-thirds life-size, but again abandoned it. He also executed at least two watercolours as well; the present work and a watercolour of the whole scheme (sold at Sotheby's, London, 10 July 1995, lot 93). The latter differs from the present work, as Death has been replaced by Cupid riding a lion and Britomart has been omitted.

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