Boreas and Oreithyia, by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919), c. 1889. Gold pigment on dark woven paper. Collection: Leighton House (RBKC [Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea]}.

De Morgan produced a number of such works, initially inspired by Edward Burne-Jones's use of gold highlighting, but developing her own technique. Seeing them very much as finished artworks rather than preparatory studisa, she herself exhibited some of them together in 1889. This one is currently (at the time of writing) included in an exhibition of eleven such works at Leighton House: "Evelyn Du Maurier: The Gold Drawings" (11 March - 1 October 2023). De Morgan did in fact return to this composition later, in an oil painting of the same title in 1896. The scene is that of the North Wind, Boreas, carrying off the daughter of the King of Athens. In her version, the episode seems more an act of reciprocal passion than one of kidnapping, with the slight Oreithyia leaning into the powerful, swirling Boreas.

The Leighton House exhibition programme, noting that the gold drawings feature "angels, saints, biblical figures and mythological deities," concludes that "these drawings celebrate those who are in some way superhuman, or close to godly. Depicting her subjects in gold suggests De Morgan made the drawings to possess talismanic qualities."

With thanks to Leighton House, and Rosy Hayward, who took a photograph of this work in its frame at the exhibition, and kindly sent it in. The original photograph was cropped to produce these two images. Please credit the photographer and Leighton House (RBKC) if you reuse these images. [Click on the images to enlarge them.] — Shirley Nicholson and Jacqueline Banerjee


"Evelyn De Morgan: The Gold Drawings." Royal Borough of kensington and Chelsea. Web. 2 August 2023.

Created 2 August 2023