© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.462
People
Edward Burne-Jones, British (Birmingham, England 1833 - 1898 London, England)
Frame by M. Grieve Co.
Title
The Depths of the Sea
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
1887
Culture
British
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Watercolor and gouache on wove paper mounted on panel
Dimensions
197 x 76 cm (77 9/16 x 29 15/16 in.)
primary support: 194.5 x 746 cm (76 9/16 x 293 11/16 in.)
frame: 214.3 x 94.6 x 8.3 cm (84 3/8 x 37 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l., gouache: EBJ / 1887
  • inscription: back of panel/frame, black ink: This picture belongs to / Honble Charles Lawrence-- / 23 Eaton Square-- / London--
  • inscription: back of panel/frame, graphite: Liverpool
  • label: back of panel/frame, printed: LIVERPOOL / 1897.
  • label: back of panel/frame, printed label with inscriptions in black ink: GROSVENOR GALLERY / INTER-COLONIAL EXHIBITION / Title of Picture Depths of the Sea / Name of Artist Edward Burne-Jones A.R.A. / Address The Grange North End Road West[?] Kensington[?] [or Rottingdean?] Lanc[?] / Price £900.0.0
  • stamp: back of panel/frame, incised: M. GRIEVE CO. / HAND CARVED / NEW YORK & LONDON [applied twice on back of frame]
Provenance
Lord Lawrence (the Honorable Charles Napier Lawrence, created first Baron Lawrence of Kingsgate, 1923);* Jacques Seligmann and Co., New York; acquired from them by Grenville L. Winthrop, October 3, 1935 ($3,500); his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

*Footnote by Gail Weinberg: "I am grateful to Christopher Newall, who identified the owner as Lord Lawrence of Kingsgate, whose collection was sold at Christie's, London, on March 15, 1935. "The Depths of the Sea" does not appear in this sale and therefore must have been sold or bequeathed separately."
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.462
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Drawing is executed on wove paper mounted to paper and attached to panel. The primary support is slightly smaller than the panel. The watercolor extends beyond the edges of the primary support, so the paper was mounted prior to execution.
Commentary
Replica of oil painting (private collection) finished in 1886 and exhibited at the Royal Academy that same year.

Label Text: 32Q: 2130 19th Century , written 2014
A mermaid triumphantly clasps her prey, tugging him into the watery depths. Was he a mariner, drowned at sea, or did she cause his death in the act of abduction? Burne-Jones may have been inspired by Ovid’s tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. The water nymph Salmacis was spellbound by the handsome youth and pulled him to his death underwater, “twining around him like a serpent.” Burne-Jones borrowed an immense water tank from a fellow artist in order to properly capture the undersea environment. The silvery fish were added at the suggestion of a friend, who felt that they emphasized the “underwateriness” of the picture.
The Depths of the Sea is a watercolor replica of an oil painting that Burne-Jones exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886. He disliked the “fat oily greasy smeariness” of oil paints, and many of his large-scale compositions are painted in a combination of transparent and opaque watercolor, applied with small brushstrokes.

Publication History

Malcolm Bell, Edward Burne-Jones: A Record and Review, George Bell and Sons, Ltd. (London, England, 1892), pp. 62, 110

Lady Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (2 vols.) (London, England, 1904), vol. II, pg. 30

Fortunée De Lisle, Burne-Jones, Methuen & Co. (London, England, 1906), p. 186, note

"Pre-Raphaelites", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, November 1943), vol. X, pp. 62-63, repr. in b/w, p. 62

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1946), no. 32

Martin Harrison and Bill Waters, Burne-Jones, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY, 1973), fig. 207

John Christian, Burne-Jones: The Paintings, Graphic and Decorative Work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, exh. cat., Arts Council of Great Britain, London (London, England, 1975), under no. 155, p. 57

Helmut Kreuzer and Gunnar Brandell, Jahrhundertende, Jahrhundertwende, Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1976), p. 375

Nina Auerbach, Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 94, fig. 23

Virginia M. Allen, The Femme Fatale: Erotic Icon, Whitston Publishing Co (Troy, NY, 1983), no. 45

Robyn Cooper, "Arthur Hughes's 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' and the Femme Fatale", Art Bulletin of Victoria, Council of the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia, 1986), no. 27, p. 10, fig. 6

David Young, Troubled Mirror: A Study of Yeats's "The Tower", University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA, 1987), fig. 3

Lothar Honnighausen, William Faulkner: The Art of Stylization, Cambridge University Press (U.K.) (Cambridge, England, 1987), p. 90, fig. 86

Joseph A. Kestner, Mythology & Misogyny: The Social Discourse of Nineteenth Century British Classical-Subject Painting, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI, 1989), pp. 97-98, fig. 2-27

"Thought: A Review of Culture and Idea", Fordham University Quarterly, Fordham University Press (New York, NY, December 1990), LXV, no. 259, repr. frontispiece

Lee Grove, Drowning, Viking Press (New York, NY, 1991), repr. on cover (color)

Alev Croutier, Taking the Waters: Spirit Art Sensuality, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1992), repr. p. 17 (color)

Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, Gender and History in Yeats's Love Poetry, Cambridge University Press (U.K.) (Cambridge, England, 1993), fig. 7, p. 175

Impressions & Illusions (19th Century IV), Kodansha, Watano Matsuzaki Communicatjons(sic) (Tokyo, Japan, 1993), no. 3.13, repr. in color

Rudolph Binion, Love Beyond Death: The Anatomy of a Myth in the Arts, New York University Press (New York, NY, 1993), p. 41, fig. 23

George Heard Hamilton, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 1993), p. 147, fig. 71(color)

Russell Ash, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1993), pl. 26 (color) + text opposite

Helen K. Gediman, Fantasies of Love and Death in Life and Art: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Normal and the Pathological, New York University Press (New York, NY, 1995), p. 59, fig. 4

Joseph A. Kestner, Masculinities in Victorian Painting, Scolar Press (Hants, England, 1995), p. 245, fig. 6-5

Stephen Kern, Eyes of Love: The Gaze in English and French Paintings and Novels 1840-1900, Reaktion Books (London, England, 1996), p. 176, illus. 94

New History of World Art, vol. 24, Shogakukan Inc. (Tokyo, Japan, 1996), fig. 311, p. 444

Debra N. Mancoff, Burne-Jones, Pomegranate (San Francisco, CA, 1998), pl. 38 (color), p. 88

Stephen Wildman and John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1998), pp. 264 - 266, under no. 119

Helene E. Roberts, ed., Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (Chicago, 1998), vol. 1, p. 317, repr. p. 316; detail repr. p. 315

Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), cat. no. 46, repr. (color)

Vincent Pomarède, "La Collection Winthrop: A la recherche de la beauté pure", L'Estampille/L'Objet d'art (April 2003), no. 379, pp. 34-45, p. 44

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), cat. no. 170, repr. (color)

Catherine Keller, Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming, Routledge (London and New York, 2003), p. 32, fig. 3

Christopher Riopelle, Harvard's Winthrop Collection: Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery Company Limited (London, 2003), p. 20, cat. 8, ill. p. 21

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 170, repr.

Suzanne Fagence Cooper, "The Liquefaction of Desire: Music, Water and Femininity in Victorian Aestheticism", Women: A Cultural Review (online journal, published online August 12, 2009), pp. 186, 188, 195, 196, repr. p. 188 as fig. 2

Keiko Kiriyama, Philosophy's World or Desire to Transform the Boundary, A Victorian Fantasy Novel, Sekaishishosha Co. Ltd (Kyoto, 2009), p. 159, fig. 2

Jessica Feather, British Watercolours and Drawings: Lord Leverhulme's Collection in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool University Press (Liverpool, 2010), p. 33 note 118

Debra N. Mancoff and Lindsay J. Bosch, Icons of Beauty: Art, Culture and the Image of Women, Greenwood Press (Santa Barbara, 2010), pp. 367-369, repr. in b/w p. 368 as fig. 12.2

Karl Kilinski II, Greek Myth and Western Art: The Presence of the Past, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 92-93, pl. XII

Exhibition History

Intercolonial Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 01/01/1889 - 12/31/1889

Twenty-seventh Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil and Water-Colours, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Liverpool, 08/30/1897 - 12/11/1897

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/08/1946 - 06/01/1946

Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

32Q: 2130 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 04/07/2015

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu