STUDY of JOSEPH for THE ADORATION (THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM)
EDWARD COLEY BURNE-JONES, Bt.
and white chalk, bodycolour and gold, 33 x 15.2 (13 x 6)
and dated, E.B.J. 1887 (lower left)
Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, Bt.: Sir Charles Holmes: Cecil
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)
L.Parry, William Morris Textiles, 1983, p.113.
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
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
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.
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.
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.