JESSIE MARION KING (1875-1949)
GLASGOW STYLE (1895-1914)
Queen Guenevere. None with her save a little Maid, a Novice (Scotland, 1903 - 1904)
Pen and ink and watercolour on vellum
Signed with monogram and inscribed
The Artist, by descent to her daughter:
Merle Taylor; her sale:
Sotheby's Belgravia at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Jessie M. King & E. A. Taylor, 21 June 1977, lot 171
The Fine Art Society, London
Private collection to 2005
Peter Nahum (editor), Jessie M. King and E. A. Taylor Illustrator and Designer, Paul Harris Publishing and Sotheby's Belgravia 1977, pages 38-9 (illustrated in colour)
Edinburgh, City Art Center, The Quest for Camelot, The Arthurian Legend in Art, 3 November 2001 -26 January 2002
Description / Expertise
One of Jessie Marion King’s most beautiful and detailed works, Queen Guenevere. None with her save a little Maid, a Novice was her frontispiece for Guenevere, the penultimate book of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. The artist was commissioned by Routledge and Sons in 1903 to design the covers for three of Tennyson’s Idylls: Morte d’Arthur, Elaine and Guenevere. These were published as part of the ‘Broadway booklets’, a series of small thirty page booklets which became extremely popular. Jessie’s design, which illustrates the opening lines of the poem, was reproduced in half-tone black and white wash:
Queen Guenevere had fled the court, and sat
There in the holy house of Almesbury
Weeping, none with her save a little maid,
A novice: one low light betwixt them burn'd
Blurr'd by the creeping mist
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,
The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face,
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still.
None with her save a little Maid dates from the early 1900's, being comparable to the artist's illustrations to editions of Sebastian Evans's High History of the Holy Grail (1903) and William Morris's Defense of Guenevere (1904).
The previous year Jessie M. King had won a gold medal for a book cover at the International Exhibition of Decorative Art in Turin. The exhibit was organized by the Fra Newbery, the Headmaster of the Glasgow School of Art and the co-coordinating designer was Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Among the other contributors was Jessie Marion King’s future husband, Ernest Archibald Taylor who was carving out a career of painter, critic and furniture designer.
The Studio of 1903 reads: We have an artist who has acted in a dual capacity. She has not only illustrated the meaning of prose and poetry by her conception of the thoughts of the poet or author, but has produced designs for the decoration of the covers of books which have given them that added value which true art ever gives where beauty is coupled with utility. Miss King is a pure produce to f what may be called the Glasgow School of Decorative Art.
In 1911 they moved to Paris to run an atelier. Here she drew inspirations from the designs of Leon Bakst, which encouraged her to use stronger, more pungent colours. At the outbreak of the 1st World War, the Taylors returned to live in Scotland.