Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., ARA (British, 1833-1898)
Study for Danae and the Brazen Tower pencil 11.5 x 16.5cm (4 1/2 x 6 1/2in).
PROVENANCE: with Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, London Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, acquired 1977
EXHIBITED: Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., Master Drawings 1977, 56 Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, The Drawing Room, August 2004-January 2005
This drawing is datable to the years 1869-70 when Burne-Jone's work shows close parallels with that of William Morris. One of their planned joint ventures was that Burne-Jones should produce a series of designs to illustrate Morris's cycle of narrative poems The Earthly Paradise published between 1865 and 1870. Although the scheme was abandoned, stories such as Danae, Cupid and Psyche and Pygmalion which found poetic form in the Earthly Paradise provided Burne-Jones with pictorial inspiration from the late 1860's till the end of his life. This drawing may be a projected design for one of the Earthly Paradise illustrations since the composition is framed by pencil lines and is of the same size as the artist's pencil designs on tracing paper for his Cupid and Psyche illustrations of the same series. The subject of this drawing was certainly treated by the artist in three famous paintings, the earliest of which was dated from around 1869 is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Although the composition of the Ashmolean pictures is an upright one, the pose of Danae who anxiously watches the building of the tower through a doorway, is the same as in [this drawing; the background however is far less finished. Another version of Danae and the brazen tower is in the Fogg Art Museum while the final most finished version is in Glasgow Art Gallery. According to the legend, Acrisius, king of Argos, was warned by an oracle that the son borne by his daughter Danae, would kill him. He gave orders for her to be imprisoned in a brazen tower where in spite of the impenetrable walls, Zeus appeared in a shower of golden rain and seduced her. She bore him a son, the famous hero Perseus.