AUBREY BEARDSLEY. "Three Lilies Swaying Left." Ornamental device for Book VIII, chapter XXXIV on page 350 of "Le Morte d'Arthur" (London: J.M. Dent, 1893-94), created by July 11, 1893. Pen and ink on paper with thin tissue paper backing. 75x68 mm; 3x2 1/2 inches. Inlaid to size on 10x7 1/4-inch sheet with hand-drawn borders, small, faint "6" drawn in square and "536" inscribed in pencil on verso. Provenance: J. M. Dent to Erhard Weyhe Collection, Sotheby's New York, December 15, 1988 to Jack and Caroline Milne.
Beardsley's tour-de-force was his first major commission and one in which he explored techniques suited to fine book reproduction, specifically the line-block. The artist's knowledge of the text and the literary associations with flora guided his choice for their usage in specific sections of the story. The lily flower and bud in Morte d'Arthur, shown here, represent purity and sweetness-Zatlin 506.