Portrait of Margaret Burne-jones, the artist's daughter
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt ARA (1833-1898)
Oil on canvas
Inscribed on a label on the reverse "Edward Burne-jones Esq, The Grange."
21 1/2 x 18 inches
Provenance: Margaret Burne-jones, later Mrs. Mackail; Margaret Mackail's sale, Christie's, 3rd December, 1954, part of lot 43 (14 gns. to Colnaghi); Thomas Basket.
Commentary by Christopher Newall
Edward Burne-Jones adored his daughter Margaret, the subject of the present portrait; she was perhaps his closest friend and became his confidante. She was born in 1866 and grew up to be a beautiful girl of the type that Burne-Jones most admired; she became a frequent model in his paintings. In a letter to Charles Eliot Norton of 1880 he wrote:
Margaret came from school -- the brightest of bright things is that damsel, half a head taller than her mother, and I sit and chuckle at the sight of her, and nudge my neighbour: also I praise her to her face that she may be used to flattery and be sick of it, and not astonished or touched when it is used by others -- that is my way with her. [book, p. 106]
Margaret's marriage to J. W. Mackail in 1887 came as a blow to Burne-Jones who suffered pangs of jealousy at the prospect of sharing her company and affections with her husband. Before their wedding Burne-Jones wrote to George Frederic Watts
Now I begin with a bit of news that will touch you both I know -- for my little Margaret is engaged. I haven't felt very good about it -- I have behaved better than I felt. She looks very happy, and before he wanted her, and before I dreamt of any such thing, I thought him a fine gentleman through and through, and yet, look what he has done to me! I have known him for seven years, and always he seemed a grave learned man who came to talk to me about books -- and it wasn't about books he came, and now where am I in the story? [Memorials, pp. 181-82]
Burne-jones's portrait of his daughter was probably done during the mid 1880s and conveys the feelings of tender affection that he had for her. Her artless and steadfast gaze in turn reflects the constancy of her love for him.
Burne-Jones, Georgina, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones. London: 1904.
Newall, Christopher. A Celebration of British and European Painting of the 19th and 20th Centuries. London: Peter Nahum, nd [1999?]. Pp. 42-44.
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Last modified 8 December 2004