In 1901, Merton Russell-Cotes purchased Aurora Triumphans, a glorious painting of angels trumpeting in the breaking dawn. Monogrammed ‘EBJ 1870’ and attributed therefore to Edward Burne-Jones, the painting hung on the walls of East Cliff Hall proudly for the next twenty years.
Meanwhile, in London, the formidable Wilhelmina Stirling, the younger sister of radical feminist artist Evelyn De Morgan (née Pickering) was emerging onto the art scene as a fierce collector of her sister’s art. She became aware of Aurora Triumphans in the Bournemouth collection and was completely horrified. This was not a Burne-Jones painting at all. It was an Evelyn De Morgan which she remembered her sister painting and had some of her sketches for it to prove it.
Following a heated exchange of letters, it unfolded that an unscrupulous art dealer had doctored the EP for Evelyn Pickering into an EBJ and added a date for good measure. This can still be seen on the lower righthand side of the painting.
For the first time in this tangled tale of art sales and forgery, the De Morgan Foundation lends three drawings from its collection which helped prove the true author of the painting to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. Letters from Wilhelmina Stirling regarding the picture from the Gallery’s archive will also be displayed in order to tell this remarkable story and commemorate the centenary of the death of Evelyn De Morgan.
05th April 19 - 02nd February 20