The Delaware Art Museum purchased both at Cheffins in Cambridge on June 12-13 at a top-estimate £30,000 (plus 22.5% buyer’s premium).
The two 13 x 6½in (33 x 16.5cm) sketches, depicting the goddess of marriage Hymen holding a harp and the blessing of a married couple, were originally given by Burne-Jones to Agnes Graham (1861-1937), the youngest daughter of his patron and friend, the Scottish merchant and politician William Graham (1817-85). Consigned by Agnes Graham’s descendants together with an album of 83 letters, they were inscribed and dated AG 1876 From EBJ.
William Graham acquired many pieces from Burne-Jones in the 1860s although the f inished Hymenaeus first belonged to businessman Luke Ionides who received it as a wedding gift from the painter in 1869. It was bequeathed to the Delaware museum in 1935.
Heather Campbell Coyle, chief curator, told ATG: “[We] were delighted by this rare opportunity to acquire preliminary drawings for a work of art that has been in our collection for over 80 years. These lovely drawings deepen our understanding of this treasured painting.”
The 83 letters (some with sketches and doodles) reveal the tender relationship between Burne-Jones and “Dear little Aggie”. Some include mentions of her sister Frances, who had been a model for the artist, with whom he had had an infatuation.
Also estimated at £20,000- 30,000, they were hammered down at £19,000.