A Burne-Jones tapestry donated to the Musée d’Orsay

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Woven by Morris & Co
Adoration of the Magi, 1904
Wool and silk -
258 x 377.5 cm
Paris, Pierre Bergé’s collection,
donation to Musée d’Orsay announced
Photo : Christie’s

24/2/09 – Acquisition – Paris, Musée d’Orsay – The Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé auction has given rise to last minute negotiations. It is well known that for important sales it is common for the French government to reach an agreement with the seller : a certain object is donated in exchange for an export permit for the rest. The Louvre had already received a Goya (see news item of 1/10/08) donated by Pierre Bergé. Today, Orsay will inherit a very beautiful tapestry which is remarkably well preserved, executed according to drawings by Edward Burne-Jones and woven at the company founded by Willliam Morris.

Morris was one of the first persons in England to revive the taste for tapestries which had tended to disappear after the 18th century. He began collaborating with Burne-Jones around 1884-1885, with figures placed against decorative backgrounds. Later, the compositions became more complex until they became veritable paintings, as attested by this Adoration of the Magi which is to join the Orsay collections. Although the first version of the tapestry was finished in 1890, this is a later weaving, executed by Morris & Co. following the death of William Morris and that of Burne-Jones. There are in fact ten known copies of this tapestry, with the last one dating from 1907 [1]

Orsay already holds two paintings by Burne-Jones, The Wheel of Fortune and Princess Sabra, as well as several decorative hangings by William Morris. The Saint-Laurent and Bergé auction includes two other works by Burne-Jones : Paradise with the Adoration of the Lamb, a group of five panels which are preparatory drawings for a stained-glass window, and an oil on canvas, Luna.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 24 février 2009


[1] There are already several held in museums : at Manchester University (1894), at Eton College (1895), at the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg (1900), at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide (1901), at the Hermitage Museum (1902) and at the Castle Museum of Norwich (1906)…

Regarding the composition, please see the catalogue for the Orsay exhibition in 1999, Edward Burne-Jones, Un maitre anglais de l’imaginaire, pp. 293-295.

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