Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919)

Study for the Head of Perseus Sold

Black chalk.
Signed, inscribed and dated Study for a head of Perseus / Edward Poynter 1872 at the lower left.
264 x 225 mm. (10 3/8 x 8 7/8 in.)


This drawing is a study for the head of Perseus in the large painting of Perseus and Andromeda, commissioned from Poynter by the Earl of Wharncliffe for the billiard room at his country seat at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Poynter received the commission from Wharncliffe, at the recommendation of Sir John Everett Millais, in 1871 and completed the painting the following year. This enormous canvas, measuring five feet by thirteen feet, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1872, and elicited much praise from critics.

The Perseus and Andromeda was to be the first part of an impressive decorative scheme. Poynter painted a further three large paintings for the billiard room, each of which were also exhibited at the Royal Academy before being sent to Wortley. These were The Fight between More of More Hall and the Dragon of Wantley, painted in 1873, Atalanta's Race, painted in 1876, and Nausicaa and her Maidens Playing at Ball, completed in 1879. Poynter also painted a large full-length portrait of the Earl of Wharncliffe for the room, which was installed in 1881. Sadly, all of the paintings for the billiard room at Wortley Hall were destroyed during the Second World War, and their appearance is today known only from old photographs and from the handful of preparatory studies that survive.

An oil sketch for the Perseus and Andromeda was on the London art market in 1971, while a large and highly finished preparatory drawing for the composition, executed in charcoal and coloured chalks, is at Rugby School in Warwickshire. A highly finished drawing in black chalk for the figure of Andromeda, signed and dated 1872, was sold at auction in 2001 and is today in a private collection in Australia.

The present sheet was exhibited at sixth annual Exhibition of Works of Art in Black and White, held in 1878 at the Dudley Gallery in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London.

With Peter Nahum, London, in 1989.

Hilary Morgan, Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century, exhibition catalogue, London, 1989, Vol.I, p.109, no.110, Vol.II, pl.79.

Edward John POYNTER

Study for the Head of Perseus


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