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6 STUDY of JOSEPH for THE ADORATION (THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM)
1887

SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES, Bt.
1833-1898

A cloaked and hooded bearded man facing to the right. His left hand clutches his cloak around his neck, in his right he holds a bundle of kindling. He is set against an abstract pastoral background.

 


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6 STUDY of JOSEPH for THE ADORATION (THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM)
1887

SIR EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES, Bt.
1833-1898

Black and white chalk, bodycolour and gold, 33 x 15.2 (13 x 6)

Signed and dated, E.B.J. 1887 (lower left)

Provenance: Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, Bt.: Sir Charles Holmes: Cecil French.

Exhibited: probably Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Drawings and Studies by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt., 1899 (74), lent by Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, Bt.; Fulham 1967 (31); Fulham 1983 (8)

Literature: L.Parry, William Morris Textiles, 1983, p.113.

A cloaked and hooded bearded man facing to the right. His left hand clutches his cloak around his neck, in his right he holds a bundle of kindling. He is set against an abstract pastoral background.

A study for St. Joseph, the left hand figure in a design for a Morris & Co. tapestry, The Adoration, of 1887, executed for Exeter College, Oxford, which both Morris and Burne-Jones had attended, and completed in 1890. The subject was suggested by J.P.Lightfoot, the Rector of Exeter, in September 1886. The Victoria and Albert Museum holds Burne-Jones's sketch-book, No. 15, (E.9-1955), which contains a number of preparatory sketches, and a full-scale (240 x 375.9) photographic cartoon (E.5012-1919).

The foliate background was designed by Morris's principal designer J.H.Dearle (1860-1932) which may account for the absence of a specific setting in Burne-Jones's sketch. Ten versions were woven between 1890 and 1907, each with a different border, including those for Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Eton College.

In 1888-91 Burne-Jones painted a watercolour replica of the tapestry (243.8 x 365.76) entitled The Star of Bethlehem, commissioned by his birthplace, Birmingham, where it remains in the City Art Gallery. Although Burne-Jones's dating is not always reliable it seems probable that this study, which is dated 1887, is for the tapestry and not the replica watercolour.

Sir Charles Holmes (1868-1936), who owned this drawing before Cecil French, was a self-taught painter and art historian whose distinguished career included the Directorships of the National Portrait Gallery, 1909-16, and National Gallery, 1916-28. He was a great friend of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon and acted as the business manager of Ricketts's Vale Press from 1896.

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