The Embarkation of Saint Ursula, c. 1926
Signed and inscribed in pencil along bottom: "Burroughs / with mat, 261 duxe bevel gilded / A 1146 [illegible] 13 ¼ " x 12 " sight / Burroughs". Verso bears partial image and printed text "Canals. / Erie Canal". Watermark is along top and reads "Whatman / 1860". Montross Gallery label affixed verso. In fine condition aside from pin holes in corners, tear to upper left margin, and remnant of adhesive along top edge of paper.Study for The Embarkation of Ursula (1926), which was exhibited at the Bryson Burroughs Memorial Exhibition in 1935 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Number thirteen in the catalogue.
According to the legend, before Sainthood, Ursula was a Romano-British princess and daughter of Kind Donaut of Cornwall in 4th century Europe. At the request of her father, Ursula was to wed the Pagan governor Conan Meriadoc of Amorica (Brittany). She set sail to meet her future husband with 11,000 virgins and her trip was interrupted by a large storm that miraculously carried her and her companions across the sea in one day to a Gaulish Port where, upon disembarking unharmed, she declared she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage before marrying her pagan husband-to-be. She set out for Rome and upon arriving convinced the pope Cyriacus (unknown in pontifical records) and Sulpicious, the Bishop of Ravenna to join her and the virgins. After leaving rome, Ursula set out for Cologne where the huns captured her entire party and massacred them all, beheading all the virgins and shooting Ursula to death with arrows. The church of St. Ursula in Cologne is dedicated to her and the Catholic Church celebrated her martyrdom on October 21 until 1969, when they removed her cannonical status.
This drawing depicts the moment as an unsuspecting Ursula embarks on the beginning of her voyage. Burroughs often favored religious and mythological legends to communicate what he considered to be life's universal truths.