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)

Danaë in the Brazen Tower

Details
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
Danaë in the Brazen Tower
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour heightened with touches of gum arabic, and with scratching out on paper
14 1/8 x 10 in. (35.9 x 25.4 cm.)
Provenance
The artist, by whom given to his daughter,
Margaret Mackail (1866-1953), and by descent to her daughter,
Angela Margaret Thirkell (née Mackail) (1890-1966), and by descent to her son,
Graham Campbell McInnes (1912-1970), and by descent to his daughter.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

Burne-Jones probably used William Morris’s Earthly Paradise as the source for this subject. Acrisius, King of Argos, was warned by an oracle that the son of his daughter Danaë would slay him. He therefore shut her up in a brazen tower, but Zeus descended on her in a shower of gold and she bore a son, Perseus.

Burne-Jones explored this subject a number of times. Danaë and the Brazen Tower (Glasgow Art Gallery), painted 1887-8 and exhibited at the New Gallery in 1888, no. 54, shows Danaë hiding and watching the tower being built. The head of Danaë was modelled by Marie Spartali. Two preliminary studies, dated 1872, are known, one landscape and one portrait format: 7 x 10 ¼ in. (Fogg Museum, Harvard) and 15 x 7 ½ in. (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). In 1905 Burne-Jones revisited the subject as part of his scheme for The Flower Book. Begun in 1882 the book consisted of thirty-eight roundels illustrating figurative subjects representing each plant. The story of Danaë was chosen to symbolise the Golden Shower orchid. Like the present watercolour, and unlike Burne-Jones’s previous depictions of Danaë, the Flower Book illustration shows her imprisoned within the tower.
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