Description: pencil on four sheets of paper
Dimensions: 182 by 91 cm., 72 1/2 by 35 1/2 in.
Literature: Martin Harrison and Bill Waters, Burne-Jones, 1973, pg. 189;
A. Charles Sewter, The Stained Glass of William Morris and his Circle - A Catalogue, 1975, pp.129-130, pg. 320
Provenance: London, St. Clements Church, Notting Dale until at least 1973;
Belgravia, Sotheby's, 1 October 1979, Lot 12;
Notes: This design of Christ and the Woman of Samaria was made by Burne-Jones for Morris and Company in 1880. The stained glass window for which it is a preparatory design is in the east window of the chancel of the eighteenth century church of St Peter's on Vere Street in Marylebone. Flanked by panels depicting angels with scrolls, surmounted by a scroll which reads 'whosoever drinketh of the water shall thirst again, but whosever drinketh of the water shall never thirst, but the water I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'. Burne-Jones' account book lists the commission as follows ' Window for St Peter's Vere St. Christ and the Woman of Samaria - and 2 attendant angels... £80'. This entry is listed on the 20th of August 1880, whilst the Catalogue of Designs dates the window at August 1881 (presumably when the window was made from the desn made a year earlier). The cartoons for the attendant angels are reproduced in Martin Bell's Burne Jones of 1894 on page 64.
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The robes of the Samarian woman in Burne-Jones' cartoon is similar to that of St. Elena in a stained glass design of 1879 and demonstrates Burne-Jones' talent as a costume designer. The costume is based loosely upon ancient costumes, predating the time of Christ and emphasises the woman's exotic origins. The costume and the buildings in the background, the decoration of the well and the water pot are all suggestive of no particular period and are very much Burne-Jones' own style. They hark back to ancient precedents, perhaps celtic, perhaps classical and reflects the new movements of decoration which had been pioneered by William Morris and by Liberty. The costumes are the type which were worn by ladies at fashionable London parties, designed by Liberty or by artists like Walter Crane or by Burne-Jones himself. The figure of the Samarian women is one of those wide-eyed beauties that Burne-Jones adored and is probably no particular model but a combination of many whilst the figure of Christ perhaps looks a little like the artist. One of the most striking aspects of Christ and the Woman of Samaria is the way in which Burne-Jones has fully exploited the possibilities and effectively solved the limitations of stained glass design by filling almost every inch of the composition with detail. The undulating rhythms of the foliage in the foreground predict the decorative effects art the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau.