Sunday, June 19, 2011

Edward Burne-Jones - Study for 'Music'

Price Realized £18,750

inscribed 'EBJ' (in monogram) 'to owl' (hieroglyph) (lower right)
pencil, on paper
14¾ x 16¾ in. (37.5 x 42.5 cm.)

Dating from about 1865, this handsome and long-lost drawing is an early study for Music, a painting of 1875-6 that was sold in these Rooms on 14 March 1997 (lot 56) and is now in the Lloyd Webber Collection (see Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters, exh. Royal Academy, London, 2003, cat. p. 297, no. 42, illustrated p. 78.). Another version, dating from 1877, is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

In the painting the composition is altered dramatically. The right-hand figure remains much the same but her companion is shown standing, and plays a fiddle rather than holding a psaltery.

The inscription has a certain poignancy. 'Owl' was Burne-Jones's affectionate nickname for the Anglo-Portuguese adventurer Charles Augustus Howell. In the mid-1860s they were on intimate terms and Howell acted as the artist's agent. Later, however, they became bitter enemies due to Howell's shady business methods and his meddling in Burne-Jones's affair with the Greek beauty Maria Zambaco.

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