Pencil drawings by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones topped Cheffins’ Fine Sale when selling for £30,000 to an American museum well acquainted with the Pre-Raphaelite artist’s work.

Ahead of the sale, the Burne-Jones Catalogue Raisonné confirmed the drawings, framed together, were preparatory studies for one of Burne-Jones’s most famous paintings, Hymenaeus, which heightened interest.

Hymenaeus has been in the collection of the Delaware Art Museum for over 80 years and it was that museum that secured the drawings bidding by telephone.

Dr Heather Campbell Coyle, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art at Delaware Art Museum, said: “The Museum’s staff and Collections Committee were delighted by this rare opportunity to acquire preliminary drawings for a work of art that has been in our collection for over 80 years.

“Hymenaeus was purchased by Samuel Bancroft in 1898 and first exhibited in Wilmington the following year. The painting was bequeathed to the Museum in 1935 and has been on view here regularly since then. These lovely drawings deepen our understanding of this treasured painting.”

Burne-Jones gifted the drawings to Agnes Graham, the daughter of his most devoted patron, the affluent Scottish merchant and Liberal MP for Glasgow, William Graham.   

An album of 83 letters written by Burne-Jones to Agnes was sold for £19,000 when going through as the next lot. The letters give a fascinating insight into their relationship and shows the affinity he felt for Graham’s daughters.

A George II breakfront cabinet that was presumably commissioned by Lord Guernsey circa 1750 at Parkington Hall in Warwickshire made £29,000. 

At just shy of that price a striking portrait by Augustus John of his daughter Gwyneth Johnstone sold for £28,000.

The portrait was taken when Gwyneth briefly shared a studio flat in London with her father when she was 17. Other than that period, Gwyneth had a rather distant relationship with her father and was brought up between London and Norwich by her mother, the pianist Nora Brownsword.

Gwyneth, a talented artist in her own right, was gifted the oil painting and it was sold from her estate after her death in 2010 in her beloved Norfolk.

An oil painting of Norfolk landscape by Edward Seago – entitled ‘The Village by the Marsh, North Norfolk –sold for £17,000, the same price that was made by three compositions of oil paintings by John Thomas Serres depicting the frigate, Amazon, in stormy waters – entering the harbour of St Lucia, in a hurricane and shipwrecked – and a Dorothea Sharp oil painting of “A Young Girl Feeding Chickens”.

A charming Victorian butcher’s shop-front model diorama which have proved so popular at auction in recent years sold for £15,000. The model is of a painted butcher figure standing in the centre with his display of meat before a four-window building. 

Speaking after the sale, Jonathan Law, head of Cheffins Fine Art, said: “We were really pleased with the response to the sale over the two days.

“The Burne-Jones drawings was a standout coming into the sale and it was great to see the Delaware Art Museum purchase them to join their collection with one of his most famous paintings, Hymenaeus. 

“As usual, anything of quality, age or unusual with the look was met with strong demand.”

To view the full calendar of Cheffins Fine Art sales, click here.