Burne-Jones' 'Ruins' up 20.6% pa at auction

Love Among the Ruins, an exceptional pre-Raphaelite watercolour painting by Victorian artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, has auctioned for £14.8m ($22.4m) at Christie's London (July 11).

Love Among the Ruons auction
The remarkable oil on canvas features Burne-Jones’ mistress Maria Zambaco. The nature of the subjects for which she modelled suggest Burne-Jones was keen to celebrate and immortalise their love

The sale price represents a marvellous 197% increase on the canvas' £5m top estimate and a new auction record for the artist.

The painting last appeared on the market in 1958, when it was snapped up for a mere 480 guineas (about £500) - corresponding to a 20.6% pa rise in value.

Christie's Harriet Drummond calls Love Among the Ruins "one of the most important works by the artist ever to come to auction", stating that the painting is "arguably the artist's most Italianate, most intensely romantic, beautiful and significant work to remain in private hands."

Burne-Jones' models for Love Among the Ruins have been identified as Alessandro di Marco and Antonia Caiva. However, the head of the young woman is generally agreed to be Maria Zambaco.

Burne-Jones and Zambaco were engaged in a tempestuous extra-marital affair during the late 1860s. Although the emotional upheaval made Burne-Jones ill, and the artist's marriage never really recovered, his work was greatly enriched by the tryst on many levels.

Works by Burne-Jones have previously proved popular at auction. The artist's A Sea Nymph brought £1.1m ($2m) to Christie's when it sold in June 2005.

Peter Brown, Christie's director of Victorian pictures, comments: "The market for Victorian art has expanded and seen increased international bidding from the US, Russia and Asia.

"Following the success of the pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate London, which has opened in Washington before it moves to Moscow in June 2013, there could not be a more propitious time to bring this picture to the market."

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