Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Alice, la Belle Pèlerine

Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, Birmingham 1833–1898 Fulham)
Graphite and black ink, heightened with white, on vellum, the head and shoulders on a subsidiary piece of vellum
Sheet: 10 in. × 5 11/16 in. (25.4 × 14.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2016
Accession Number:
Not on view
In 1856, while studying theology at Oxford, the twenty-three-year-old Burne-Jones toured Gothic cathedrals in France with his friend William Morris, consulted with Dante Gabriel Rossetti in London, and decided to leave college and pursue art. John Ruskin advised him to look closely at Albrecht Dürer, and the present drawing demonstrates the influence of that German master, combined with aspects of Rossetti’s distinct draftsmanship and vision of female beauty.
Thomas Malory's chivalric poem "La Morte D’Arthur" describes Alice la Belle Pèlerine (Alice the beautiful pilgrim) as "passing fair" and notes that her moniker came courtesy of her father, Duke Ansirus who "was a great pilgrim, for every third year he would be at Jerusalem." An emblematic shell hangs at Alice's neck, her own quest one of the heart, as she processes through a medieval interior, likely out to the lush summer landscape seen through an opening to watch knights joust for her hand. Worked in ink on vellum, the drawing comes from an early group made between 1858 and 1860, praised by Ruskin as "marvels in finish and imaginative detail." Minute touches weave patterns and describe elements that imply, rather than specify, a narrative. In some areas, the artist scraped away the surface to produce a lighter background and softer ink effects. Alice's head and shoulders are drawn on a separate piece of vellum affixed to the main sheet.
Inscription: Inscribed at lower left with the artist's initials: “EBJ”
Richard Mills (British, died 1901); Christie's, London, April 13, 1908, lot 3; 25 gs., bought by the following; Gooden & Fox, Ltd., London; Roberto Longhi (1890–1970); Pietro Maria Bardi (1900–1999); Vendor: Christie's, London, 13 July 2016, lot 115
Malcolm Bell Sir Edward Burne-Jones: A Record and Review. 4th edition. London, 1898, pp. 21, 128.

Burlington Fine Arts Club Drawings and Studies by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bart. Ex. cat. London, 1899, cat. no. 18 (lent by Richard Mills).

Fortunée De Lisle Burne-Jones. Methuen & Co. Methuen, London, 1904, pp. 47, 187.

John Christian, Hayward Gallery Burne-Jones: The paintings, graphic and decorative work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1833–98. Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1975, pp. 20-24 (cat. no. 12, p. 20 mentions "Alys la Belle Pèlerine" as untraced).

Christie's, London Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art. [Sale catalogue]. July 13, 2016, lot 115, pp. 18-19, ill.

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