Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Burne-Jones Mystery

I'm still plugging away at the Burne-Jones "Spes/Hope" mystery. I've uncovered more on that front, a similar photogravure (but uncolored) in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery in England and another as part of a portfolio of 81 photogravures by the Berlin Photographic Company (1890) was sold at auction at Sotheby's in 1998.
There's one watercolour left unaccounted which I'd like to see because so far the coloring is different on the oil in Boston, watercolor in New Zealand and my piece. It's supposedly in the Victoria Gallery in Australia but doesn't come up in their collection database.
Also, there's a whole lot more back story about Mary or Maria Casssavetti Zambaco, the model for Spes, the Greek goddess of hope. Burne-Jones painted her in a number of pieces, Cupid and Psyche, The Beguiling of Merlin, Spes, and Circe Pouring Poison into a Vial and Awaiting the Arrival of Ulysses, which some critics say may represent the suicide pact she wnated Burne Jones to make with her as she showed him a vial with enough laudenum in it to kill them both as they stood at the edge of the regent canal.  He declined, she tried to jump into the canal, and their friends, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning heard them as Burne-Jones grabbbed Mary and wrestled her to the cobblestones. The local constables were called and  Burne-Jones left the scene to faint not too far away. This is only one incident in their rather chaotic affair.
Spes was one of his more compassionate paintings of her, and perhaps had to do with the fact she was married just as Burne-Jones was. The Beguiling of Merlin seems to symbolically place the blame on her, as if he had no choice but to be smitten. But he also painted her in softer paintings, such as Love Among the Ruins.

At this point all pertinent info and a photo has been sent to a Pre-Raphaelite expert, curator and art dealer in England who used to work for Sotheby's so we'll see.  If he doesn't bother to reply, I'll know it's a common piece.  If he does - well, we'll just take it form there.  Any information will be awesome to me, just to know what it is.  I don't imagine I'll be able to trace it's travels form Britian to South Carolina, but it would be very cool if I could.

1 comment:

  1. So very cool! I love how you're tracing the history of the piece. It's like a strange sort of map to the past.


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