© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In the tales of King Arthur, the knight Tristan and the Irish princess Isolde were bound together by a love potion, with ultimately tragic results. Although Beardsley illustrated Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a version of the medieval legend first published in the 15th century, the reference in this drawing is more likely to Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, which was performed frequently in the 1890s. Beardsley claimed that he “would do anything and go anywhere . . . to hear Wagner’s music.”

Most of Beardsley’s drawings were made for illustration: Isolde was reproduced as a color lithograph in the periodical The Studio in 1895. The intense crimson of the curtain isolates the figure on a stage—the crux of the plot is here encapsulated in the moment when Isolde prepares to drink from the goblet that contains “the love drink” rather than the poison that she is expecting.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, British (Brighton, England 1872 - 1898 Menton, France)
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
Black and gray ink and red and green watercolor on cream wove paper
28.6 x 18 cm (11 1/4 x 7 1/16 in.)
Charles Holme; Scott and Fowles, New York; acquired from them by Grenville L. Winthrop, February 16, 1924 ($1,400); his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Zatlin 957
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

[Reproduction only], "Herkomer School", The Studio, (October 1895)., repr.

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley and Aymer Vallance, A Book of Fifty Drawings, L. Smithers (London, 1897), pg. 205

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley and Henry Currie Marillier, The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley, John Lane (London, 1899), no. 24, repr.

Robert Ross and Aymer Vallance, Aubrey Beardsley, John Lane, The Bodley Head (London, England, 1909), no. 119

Albert E. Gallatin, Aubrey Beardsley: Catalogue of Drawings and Bibliography, The Grolier Club (New York, NY, 1945), no. 987

Martin Birnbaum, Jacovleff and Other Artists, Paul A. Struck (New York, 1946), pl. 40

Rainforth Armitage Walker, "Aubrey Beardsley", Graphis (1950), 6, no. 31, pg. 251

Brian Reade, Aubrey Beardsley, Viking Press (New York, 1967), pg. 391, repr.

Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), p. 244

Simon Wilson, Beardsley (revised edition), Phaidon Books (Oxford, 1983), no. 39, repr.

Anne Bertrand, "Winthrop: le dessein d'une collection", L'Oeil (March 2003), no. 545, p. 46 and fig. 5 (color)

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. 141, ill.

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. 141, repr.

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 172, repr.

Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2016), vol. 2, no. 957, pp. 170-172, 249, repr. p. 171, detail repr. p. 129

Exhibition History

Portrait, Prospect and Poetry: British Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Bequest, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/11/1993 - 11/07/1993

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

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

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