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The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon (Museo de Arte, Ponce, Puerto Rico, fig. 1) is Burne-Jones's largest painting, and one to which he attached enormous importance. It was begun in 1881 as a sort of mural for the library at Naworth Castle, the Cumbrian home of his friend and patron George Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle. As the painting progressed, however, it acquired increasing significance for the artist, and Howard resigned his right to the commission. Burne-Jones continued to work on the canvas intermittently, particularly during the last years of his life, but although complete in all essentials, it was still not quite finished when he died suddenly in June 1898.
This group of drawings by Burne-Jones and his assistants gives a vivid insight into the way the work was prepared.