Edward Burne-Jones, Girl with a Portative Organ

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Girl with a Portative Organ
Signed and dated '1870'
Medium and support
Watercolour on paper
Overall height: 54.5 cm, Overall width: 27 cm
Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Catalogue Number


In 1871, William Graham purchased this gouache painting from Burne-Jones for £200. Formerly identified as an independently conceived depiction of St Cecilia, in fact it relates closely to a drawing that Burne-Jones had made around 1867 as a background figure in St George and the Dragon. No 7. The Return (Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery), a series of seven canvases illustrating the story of St George and the Dragon, made for the artist Myles Birket Foster to hang in the dining room of his home at Witley, Surrey.1 The original drawing was probably acquired by Joseph Ruston of Lincoln, who, like Graham, formed a collection of Burne-Jones’s work.2

Although the figure as it appears in Burne-Jones’s painting in the St George Series plays a violin, the figure in the related drawing holds a portative organ, identical to the one in the present picture. The painting does, however, include, directly behind, another female figure holding a portative organ. It is possible, therefore, that the present figure was re-configured and sold as a depiction of St Cecilia, the organ being readily associated with her role as the patron saint of music.

by Martin Postle


Albert Charles Sewter, The Stained Glass of William Morris and his Circle, vol. 2, New Haven : Yale University Press, 1975, vol. 2, p. 146

Stephen Wildman and John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian Artist-Dreamer, New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, pp. 314–15

Oliver Garnett, 'The Letters and Collection of William Graham: Pre-Raphaelite Patron and Pre-Raphael Collector', The Walpole Society, vol. 62, 2000, cat. no. b29, p. 290


  1. For the drawing see ‘Christopher Wood: A Very Victorian Eye’, Christie’s, London, 28 February 2007 (7).

  2. John Christian and Bill Waters, ‘Girl with a Portative Organ for the St George Series The Return (Mis-titled St Cecilia), Burne-Jones Catalogue Raisonne, (accessed 13 July 2020).


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