Artwork by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones commissioned by the former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour heads to auction at Berkshire auction house, Dreweatts in its Old Master, British and European Art sale.
The study for the Perseus series by British Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) carries an estimate of £15,000-£20,000 in the sale on June 14.
The Perseus series was commissioned by Arthur Balfour (1848-1930) in 1875 for the music room of his London home at 4 Carlton Gardens in St James’s. The Prime Minister and Burne-Jones both shared an interest in William Morris’s epic poem, The Earthly Paradis, which retells the myths of Greece and Scandinavia.
In light of this Burne-Jones planned to create ten paintings in a series based on several Greek myths, incorporating heroic tales of knight-errantry and the triumph of good over evil. At the centre is Perseus, son of the God Zeus, who is sent to rescue the beautiful Andromeda and kill the Gorgon Medusa. The legend, which has been popular in art since antiquity, saw Burne-Jones portray the main events to form a coherent and engaging narrative.
The charcoal and chalk drawing being offered for sale was a preliminary work for the final piece in the series, titled The Baleful Head,created in 1886-1877. The scene depicted takes place after Perseus has married Andromeda with Perseus showing Andromeda Medusa’s head, through the reflection in the octagonal well, so as not to turn her into stone.
Burne-Jones’s sketches such as this were an important aspect of his artistic process and with this particular study there is a strong similarity with the finished oil version. Following the creation of the studies Lord Balfour visited Burne-Jones to approve them ahead of them being painted in oil. Sadly, the series was never completed due to Burne-Jones’s ill health.
Commenting on the work Brandon Lindberg, Dreweatts Head of Old Master, British & European Art, said: “Pre-Raphaelite drawings have become increasingly popular with collectors over the last few years and this sensitive and very beautiful drawing shows the skill of Burne-Jones as an accomplished draughtsman.”
The study is signed with Burne-Jones’s monogram.