The Days of Creation, a highly detailed pencil study by Edward Burne-Jones, is to auction at Bonhams London on January 23.
The piece by the esteemed pre-Raphaelite artist carries a £150,000-250,000 ($240,000-400,000) presale estimate. Comparable works by Burne-Jones have previously sold for substantial sums, including the oil on canvas A Sea Nymph, which brought £1.1m ($2m) at Christie's in June 2005.
The museum grade sketch was previously exhibited at The New Gallery in London between 1898 and 1899. Its re-emergence coincides with a resurgence of interest in the pre-Raphaelite artists, with the Tate's Pre Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde exhibition, which runs until January 13, continuing to draw large crowds. The sketch itself remains thematically important as it deals with the familiar pre-Raphaelite tropes of religiosity and classical literature.
Dating from approximately 1871, The Days of Creation sketch was subsequently translated by Burne-Jones into the celebrated gouache on linen work of the same title. Bonhams insists: "Rather than a preparatory sketch, the present piece should be considered a semi-independent work, executed as much for the artist's personal pleasure as to mark a distinction between his stained glass designs and a fully completed easel work."
Having resided in a private collection for many years, the reappearance of the drawing comes at a time when the top end of the art market is experiencing strong results: Raphael's Head of an Apostle became the most valuable old master drawing ever auctioned, when it realised £29.7m ($47.8m) earlier this month.
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