Angel Playing a Flageolet

WAG 192


The artist painted two sets of three angels playing different instruments, a small set in oil and a larger one in tempera. Tempera, a medium that involved the fusion of pigments with water and egg yolk, was associated with Italian renaissance artists of the 14th and 15th centuries and was very uncommon in late 19th-century Britain. Burne-Jones retained this work in his own studio for ten years before parting with it to the dealers Agnew’s, from whom it was immediately bought by George Holt. This composition is based on a stained glass design Burne-Jones made for a window depicting the New Jerusalem for the parish church in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, in 1862-63. The angel and the curved horn were originally shaped to fit within a tracery trefoil (a shaped feature within the window). Burne-Jones had a fondness for historic decorative objects. The flageolet originated in France in the early 18th century. Burne-Jones uses vivid reds and blues on the angel’s draperies to enhance the splendour of the heavenly setting.