In 1901, Merton Russell-Cotes purchased Aurora Triumphans (1877-78), a glorious painting of angels trumpeting in the breaking dawn. Monogrammed ‘EBJ 1870’ and attributed therefore to Edward Burne-Jones, the painting hung on the walls of East Cliff Hall proudly for the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, in London, the formidable Wilhelmina Stirling, the younger sister of radical feminist artist Evelyn De Morgan (née Pickering) was emerging onto the art scene as a fierce collector of her sister’s art. She became aware of Aurora Triumphans in the Bournemouth collection and was completely horrified. This was not a Burne-Jones painting at all. It was an Evelyn De Morgan which she remembered her sister painting and had some of her sketches for it to prove it.
Following a heated exchange of letters, it unfolded that an unscrupulous art dealer had doctored the EP for Evelyn Pickering into an EBJ and added a date for good measure. This can still be seen on the lower righthand side of the painting.