Monday, August 24, 2009

Edward Burne-Jones - Danae

Watercolour with bodycolour and gold paint
16 x 5"
Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 13,750 GBP

Sir Edward Burne-Jones was deeply interested in the mythological legend of Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius King of Argos, who was incarcerated in a tower of brass by her father who had been warned by an oracle that a son born to her would be the cause of his own death. The god Zeus visited her in the form of a shower of gold, and as a result she became the mother of Perseus. Acrisius banished Perseus, sending him upon an apparently impossible mission – to kill the Medusa. With the assistance of the goddess Athena, Perseus accomplished this task and in due course returned to the court of Acrisius, where as foretold he was the cause of his grandfather's death.

Burne-Jones had first made drawings on the theme in the 1860s, in connection with the projected illustrated edition of William Morris's The Earthly Paradise, into which was incorporated the poem 'The Doom of King Acrisius'. Later he painted several versions of the subject Danaë and the Brazen Tower, in which the figure of Danaë is seen looking through a doorway towards the tower under construction. The largest and most complete painting in this series is that in the Glasgow City Art Gallery, of 1887-8, while a smaller version is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. It must also have been in the later 1880s that the artist painted the present gouache, which may be regarded as a sequel to the oil, as it shows the imprisoned Danaë receiving Zeus as her lover.

The present subject was treated by Burne-Jones as one of his illustrations on the theme of flower names in the so-called 'Flower Book', which were done at intervals between 1882 and his death in 1898. Number XVIII in that series, Golden Shower. Danaë in the Brazen Tower, takes a similar theme to the present watercolour.
CSN (Sotherby's)

No comments: