By their buyers shall ye know them. Notable collectors of the work of Edward Burne-Jones (1833–98) include Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the impresario of the popular musical, and Jimmy Page, the rock guitarist and songwriter for Led Zeppelin. The resemblances between the collectors and the collected are visible or audible in their work: mythic resonances and Romantic pomp, a Wagnerian melodrama with one eye on the gods and the other on the box office. It was Burne-Jones’s contemporary Walter Pater who wrote that all art aspires to the condition of music. In the epics of Lloyd Webber and Page, all music aspires to the condition of Burne-Jones.

In 2008, Page, an avid Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts collector, ran out of wall space in his many mansions. The hammer of the gods fell on the auctioneer’s block. Page was obliged to try to sell a massive Burne-Jones tapestry...

 

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