The Passing of Venus, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, Birmingham 1833–1898 Fulham), Brush, gouache and metallic paint on cardboard

The Passing of Venus

Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, Birmingham 1833–1898 Fulham)
Brush, gouache and metallic paint on cardboard
16-1/16 x 38-11/16 in. (40.8 x 98.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1962
Accession Number:
Not on view
Overwhelming passion was a constant theme in Burne-Jones’s art. He was working on this study for a Morris & Company tapestry showing Venus’ conquest when he died in 1898. Although preliminary, the intricate composition is clearly established: the goddess enters at left in a winged chariot while Cupid prepares the way. As women fall before him, he fits an arrow for the next victim among a crowd of nervous beauties. Burne-Jones invented the motif, drawing on medieval poetry and Renaissance allegories of the triumph of love, for his personal homage to the irresistible power of desire. The design was used by Merton Abbey Tapestry Works to weave two tapestries, in 1908 and 1922. The first was destroyed by fire and the second is now at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Marking: Stamped on verso: Charles Roberson and Co. / Artists Colourmen / Manufacturers of / Water and oil colours / Materials for / Drawing and Painting / 99 Long Acre, London; Sticker on wooden backing of drawing: Works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones Bart. / Coloured design / for the "Passing of Venus" / C. Roberson and Co. / 99 Long Acre
Estate of Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British); Charles Roberson & Co. (British), 1907 or earlier; Grégoire Tarnopol, purchased in Paris; Vendor: James Coats
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," November 28, 1994–February 5, 1995.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer," June 4, 1998–September 6, 1998.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. "Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer," October 17, 1998–January 17, 1999.

Musée d'Orsay, Paris. "Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer," March 1, 1999–June 6, 1999.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design," May 20–October 26, 2014.

Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue of the Sixth Exhibition. The New Gallery, 121 Regent Street. 1899, cat. no. 197, p. 77 ("Picture: The Passing of Venus" sketch for tapestry by the late Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bart.).

Sir Philip Burne-Jones "Notes on Some Unfinished Works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt." The Magazine of Art. vol. 24, 1900, pp. 162-4.

Aymer Vallance "The Decorative Art of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Baronet." The Art Journal. Extra number, Easter Art Annual, 1900, pp. 8, 30, ill.

Georgiana Burne-Jones Memorials of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 2 vols., 1904, vol. II, p. 331.

"The Craft Section at the New Gallery." The International Studio. vol. 35, pt. 3, July-October, 1908, pp. 56-7.

Aymer Vallance "Some Examples of Tapestries Designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones and Mr. J. H. Dearle." The International Studio. vol. 36, November 1908, cat. no. 141, pp. 5, 16-17.

A.C.W. "The Passing of Venus." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts. vol. 8, no. 7, April 1927, pp. 78-80.

Henry Currie Marillier History of the Merton Abbey Tapestry Works, Founded by William Morris. Constable & Co., Ltd., London, 1927, pp. 21, 35.

Martin Harrison, Bill Waters Burne-Jones. New York, 1973, pp. 52, 138.

Rowland Elzea, Betty Elzea, Delaware Art Museum The Pre-Raphaelite Era 1848-1914 Ex. cat., April 12-June 6. Wilmington, Delaware, 1976, cat. no. 4-61, p. 94 (related tapestry, cat. no. 4-63, p. 96).

Oliver Fairclough, Emmeline Leary Textiles by William Morris and Morris & Co., 1861-1940. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981, cat. no. T23, p. 111 (MMA drawing discussed in connection to the related tapestry at the Detroit Institute of Arts, woven by Percy Sheldrick, 1922-26).

Linda Parry "The Revival of the Merton Abbey Tapestry Works." Journal of the William Morris Society. vol. 5.3, Summer 1983, pp. 18-21 (related tapestry woven by Morris & Company).

Alan P. Darr, Tracey Albainy, Melanie Holcomb Woven Splendor: five centuries of European tapestry in the Detroit Institute of Arts Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts, July 14 - September 29. 1996, fig. no. 15, p. 71.

Stephen Wildman, John Christian Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998, cat. no. 100, pp. 234-6, ill.

Christie's, London Important British Art. [Sale catalogue]. London, November 24, 2004, related work (oil on panel, 1875): lot 10, pp. 48-53.

Douglas E. Schoenherr "Transcript: Burne-Jone's Account Books with Morris & Company, vol. 1 (1861-1882) and vol. 2 (1883-1900)." The Journal of Stained Glass: Burne-Jones Special Issue. vol. 35, 2011, p. 123 (related work, "Triumph of Love," 1861, a design for a panel of tiles).

Douglas E. Schoenherr "Annotated Checklist of Edward Burne-Jones's designs for Morris & Company in order of entry in his Account Books." The Journal of Stained Glass: Burne-Jones Special Issue. vol. 35, 2011, cat. no. 8, p. 185 (related work: "Triumph of Love," cartoon for panel of 15 five inch tiles (3 x 5)).

Linda Parry William Morris Textiles. V&A Publishing, 2013, p. 151.