The Forge of Cupid or Cupid and Delight

PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

The Forge of Cupid or Cupid and Delight (England, 1861)

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Watercolour, bodycolour and gum arabic on paper laid down on linen
Signed with initials, inscribed 'pinxit' and dated 1861 1.1., inscribed on the reverse 'painted in watercolours. October MDCCLXI'


32.50cm high
50.00cm wide
(12.80 inches high)
(19.69 inches wide)
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Purchased from the artist by William Russell, Esq.
His sale, Christie's, 5 December 1884, lot 16 (£147)
R.H. Benson Esq
C. French Esq
Sir Hugh Walpole
Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd
Peter Nahum Ltd.
Private collection


Art Journal, London 1865, page 174
The Illustrated London News, London 29 April 1865, page 410
Edward Clifford, Broadlands as It Was, London 1890, page 57: As magnificent in colour as any picture painted.
Malcolm Bell, Edward Burne-Jones, A Record and Review, George Bell & Son, London & New York 1892, pages 33-34 & 90, illustrated opposite page 34: 'Another of the direct realisations of subjects from Chaucer was finished in 1861, that Cupid's Forge which the poet saw in his dreams when Scipion Affrikan led to the enchanted garden wherein was held the humorous Assembly of Foules... On the right Cupid, in a red dress, with softly folded flame-coloured wings, kneels beside his anvil busily filing at a glowing arrow-head, while behind him others lie heating in the forge, upon the green thatched roof of two white doves, the birds of Venus, bill and coo. On the left a square basin of pinkish marble receives the colde welle streame in which a beautiful kneeling girl in purple, the Cupid's doughter of Chaucer's creation, tempers the hot blade of one arrow while she holds those already completed, according to their destiny either to kill or only wound, part in the hollow of her left arm, part in the folds of her uplifted tunic. The background with its gleams of daylight between the foliage, which can unluckily be only dimly suggested by the reproductions in black and white, is just such a flowery pleasaunce as Chaucer loved to imagine and Mr Burne-Jones delights in giving form and colour to; A garden saw I full of blossomed bowis Upon a river in a grene mede, There as sweetness evermore inough is, With floures, white, blewe, yellowe, and rede.
'The happy rendering of the spirit of the poem in this little watercolour is very notable, and inspired the hope that a completed set of illustrations to Chaucer, still only vaguely contemplated, may yet reach a consummation devoutly to be wished.'

Julia Cartwright, The Life and Work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, The Art Annual, London 1894, page 10
Newnes' Art Library, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, George Newnes Ltd., London page xi, illustrated page 17: Cupid's Forge, in which the poet had the charming inspiration to give the formidable blacksmith as assistant a lovely, enigmatic creature, who gravely tempers the darts which he has just finished forging.
J.E. Phythian, Burne-Jones, Grant Richards, London 1908, pages 132-133 & 149
Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones A Biography, Michael Joseph, London 1975, page 74
Alison Smith, Burne-Jones, Tate Gallery, October 2018, catalogue number 3, illus page 46

Exhibition History

London, Royal Watercolour Society, 1865, number 97 (exhibited under the title Cupid and Delight).
London, New Gallery, Exhibition of the Works of Edward Burne-Jones, 1892-1893, number 10
Birmingham, Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham Art, Past & Present, 1898
London, New Gallery, Burne-Jones, Winter Exhibition 1898-1899, number 40 (exhibited under the title The Forge of Cupid).
London, Tate Gallery, Burne- Jones Centenary Exhibition, 1933, number 15
London, Leicester Galleries, The Art Collection of the Late Sir Hugh Walpole, April 1945, number 24
Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery,
Tokyo, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Burne-Jones in Japan, June-August 2012 and travelling to: the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art, Kobe, September - October 2012 and Koriyama City Museum of Art, Koriyama, October - December 2012
London, Tate Britain, Burne-Jones, October 2018-February 2019, catalogue number 3, illus page 46

Description / Expertise

Under a tree beside a welle I sey
Cupide our lorde his arrowes forge and file:
And at his feete his bowe already lay;
And wel his daughter tempred, at the while,
The hiddes in the welle; and with her wile
She couched hem after, as they should serve
Same to slee, and some to wound and kerve.

Chaucer’s Assembly of Foules