Edward Burne-Jones

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet ARA (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898) was an English artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Burne-Jones was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain; his stained-glass include windows in St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham, St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, Chelsea, St Peter and St Paul parish church in Cromer, St Martin's Church in Brampton, Cumbria (the church designed by Philip Webb), St Michael's Church, Brighton, All Saints, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, St Edmund Hall and Christ Church, two colleges of the University of Oxford. His stained glass works also feature in St. Anne's Church, Brown Edge, Staffordshire Moorlands and St.Edward the Confessor church at Cheddleton Staffordshire. Burne-Jones's early paintings show the heavy inspiration of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but by the 1860s Burne-Jones was discovering his own artistic "voice". In 1877, he was persuaded to show eight oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery (a new rival to the Royal Academy). These included The Beguiling of Merlin. The timing was right, and he was taken up as a herald and star of the new Aesthetic Movement.

In addition to painting and stained glass, Burne-Jones worked in a variety of crafts; including designing ceramic tiles, jewellery, tapestries, and mosaics.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt
Edward Burne-Jones Photogravure Hollyer
Photogravure of a portrait of Edward Burne-Jones by his son Philip Burne-Jones, 1898
Born
Edward Coley Burne-Jones

28 August 1833
Birmingham, England
Died17 June 1898 (aged 64)
London, England
Known forPainting
MovementPre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts Movement

Early life

Frederick Hollyer Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris 1874
Burne-Jones with William Morris, 1874, by Frederick Hollyer

Edward Coley Burne Jones (the hyphen came later) was born in Birmingham, the son of a Welshman, Edward Richard Jones, a frame-maker at Bennetts Hill, where a blue plaque commemorates the painter's childhood. His mother Elizabeth Coley Jones died within six days of his birth, and he was raised by his grieving father and the family housekeeper, Ann Sampson, an obsessively affectionate but humourless and unintellectual local girl.[1][2] He attended Birmingham's King Edward VI grammar school from 1844[3] and the Birmingham School of Art from 1848 to 1852, before studying theology at Exeter College, Oxford.[4] At Oxford he became a friend of William Morris as a consequence of a mutual interest in poetry. The two Exeter undergraduates, together with a small group of Jones' friends from Birmingham known as the Birmingham Set,[5] speedily formed a very close and intimate society, which they called "The Brotherhood". The members of the Brotherhood read John Ruskin and Tennyson, visited churches, and worshipped the Middle Ages. At this time Burne-Jones discovered Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur which was to be so influential in his life. At that time neither Burne-Jones nor Morris knew Gabriele Rossetti personally, but both were much influenced by his works, and met him by recruiting him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Morris founded in 1856 to promote their ideas.[3][6]

Burne-Jones had intended to become a church minister, but under Rossetti's influence both he and Morris decided to become artists, and Burne-Jones left college before taking a degree to pursue a career in art. In February 1857, Rossetti wrote to William Bell Scott

Two young men, projectors of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, have recently come up to town from Oxford, and are now very intimate friends of mine. Their names are Morris and Jones. They have turned artists instead of taking up any other career to which the university generally leads, and both are men of real genius. Jones's designs are marvels of finish and imaginative detail, unequalled by anything unless perhaps Albert Dürer's finest works.[3]

Marriage and family

Georgiana Burne-Jones by Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Portrait of Georgiana Burne-Jones, with Philip and Margaret, 1883
Margaret, daughter of Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Margaret, daughter of Burne-Jones

In 1856 Burne-Jones became engaged to Georgiana "Georgie" MacDonald (1840–1920), one of the MacDonald sisters. She was training to be a painter, and was the sister of Burne-Jones's old school friend. The couple married in 1860, after which she made her own work in woodcuts and became a close friend of George Eliot. (Another MacDonald sister married the artist Sir Edward Poynter, a further sister married the ironmaster Alfred Baldwin and was the mother of the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and yet another sister was the mother of Rudyard Kipling. Kipling and Baldwin were thus Burne-Jones's nephews by marriage).

Georgiana bore a son, Philip, in 1861. A second son, born in the winter of 1864 while Georgiana was gravely ill with scarlet fever, died soon after birth. The family soon moved to 41 Kensington Square, and their daughter Margaret was born there in 1866.[7] In 1867 Burne-Jones and his family settled at the Grange, an 18th-century house set in a large garden in North End, Fulham, London. For much of the 1870s Burne-Jones did not exhibit, following a spate of bitterly hostile attacks in the press, and a passionate affair (described as the "emotional climax of his life"[8]) with his Greek model Maria Zambaco, which ended with her trying to commit suicide by throwing herself in Regent's Canal.[8][9] During these difficult years Georgiana developed a close friendship with Morris, whose wife Jane had fallen in love with Rossetti. Morris and Georgie may have been in love, but if he asked her to leave her husband, she refused. In the end, the Burne-Joneses remained together, as did the Morrises, but Morris and Georgiana were close for the rest of their lives.[10]

In 1880 the Burne-Joneses bought Prospect House in Rottingdean, near Brighton in Sussex, as their holiday home, and soon after the next door Aubrey Cottage to create North End House, reflecting the fact that their Fulham home was in North End Road. (Years later, in 1923, Sir Roderick Jones, head of Reuters, and his wife, playwright and novelist Enid Bagnold, were to add the adjacent Gothic House to the property, which became the inspiration and setting for her play The Chalk Garden).

His troubled son Philip, who became a successful portrait painter, died in 1926. His adored daughter Margaret (died 1953) married John William Mackail (1850–1945), the friend and biographer of Morris, and Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1911–1916. Their children were the novelists Angela Thirkell and Denis Mackail. In an edition of the boys' magazine, Chums (No. 227, Vol.  V, 13 January 1897), an article on Burne-Jones stated that "....his pet grandson used to be punished by being sent to stand in a corner with his face to the wall. One day on being sent there he was delighted to find the wall prettily decorated with fairies, flowers, birds, and bunnies. His indulgent grandfather had utilised his talent to alleviate the tedium of his favourite's period of penance."

Artistic career

Early years: Rossetti and Morris

Burne-Jones once admitted that after leaving Oxford he "found himself at five-and-twenty what he ought to have been at fifteen". He had had no regular training as a draughtsman, and lacked the confidence of science. But his extraordinary faculty of invention as a designer was already ripening; his mind, rich in knowledge of classical story and medieval romance, teemed with pictorial subjects, and he set himself to complete his set of skills by resolute labour, witnessed by innumerable drawings. The works of this first period are all more or less tinged by the influence of Rossetti; but they are already differentiated from the elder master's style by their more facile though less intensely felt elaboration of imaginative detail. Many are pen-and-ink drawings on vellum, exquisitely finished, of which his Waxen Image (1856) is one of the earliest and best examples. Although the subject, medium and manner derive from Rossetti's inspiration, it is not the hand of a pupil merely, but of a potential master. This was recognized by Rossetti himself, who before long avowed that he had nothing more to teach him.[11]

Burne-Jones's first sketch in oils dates from this same year, 1856, and during 1857 he made for Bradfield College the first of what was to be an immense series of cartoons for stained glass. In 1858 he decorated a cabinet with the Prioress's Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, his first direct illustration of the work of a poet whom he especially loved and who inspired him with endless subjects. Thus early, therefore, we see the artist busy in all the various fields in which he was to labour.[11]

In the autumn of 1857 Burne-Jones joined Morris, Valentine Prinsep, J. R. Spencer Stanhope[12] and others in Rossetti's ill-fated scheme to decorate the walls of the Oxford Union. None of the painters had mastered the technique of fresco, and their pictures had begun to peel from the walls before they were completed. In 1859 Burne-Jones made his first journey to Italy. He saw Florence, Pisa, Siena, Venice and other places, and appears to have found the gentle and romantic Sienese more attractive than any other school. Rossetti's influence still persisted, and is visible, more strongly perhaps than ever before, in the two watercolours of 1860, Sidonia von Bork and Clara von Bork.[11] Both paintings illustrate the 1849 gothic novel Sidonia the Sorceress by Lady Wilde, a translation of Sidonia Von Bork: Die Klosterhexe (1847) by Johann Wilhelm Meinhold.[13]

Decorative arts: Morris & Co.

Burne-Jones, Sir Edward, Saint Cecilia, ca. 1900
Saint Cecilia, c. 1900, Princeton University Art Museum, one of nearly thirty versions of a window designed by Burne-Jones and executed by Morris & Co.[14]

In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb as partners, together with Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall, the former of whom was a member of the Oxford Brotherhood, and the latter a friend of Brown and Rossetti.[6] The prospectus set forth that the firm would undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), and carpets.[11] The decoration of churches was from the first an important part of the business. The work shown by the firm at the 1862 International Exhibition attracted much notice, and within a few years it was flourishing. Two significant secular commissions helped establish the firm's reputation in the late 1860s: a royal project at St. James's Palace and the "green dining room" at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert) of 1867 which featured stained glass windows and panel figures by Burne-Jones.[15]

In 1871 Morris & Co. were responsible for the windows at All Saints, designed by Burne-Jones for Alfred Baldwin, his wife's brother-in-law. The firm was reorganized as Morris & Co. in 1875, and Burne-Jones continued to contribute designs for stained glass, and later tapestries until the end of his career. Stained glass windows in the Christ Church cathedral and other buildings in Oxford are by Morris & Co. with designs by Burne-Jones.[16][17] Stanmore Hall was the last major decorating commission executed by Morris & Co. before Morris's death in 1896. It was also the most extensive commission undertaken by the firm, and included a series of tapestries based on the story of the Holy Grail for the dining room, with figures by Burne-Jones.[18]

In 1891 Jones was elected a member of the Art Workers Guild.

Illustration work

Although known primarily as a painter, Burne-Jones was also an illustrator, helping the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic to enter mainstream awareness. In addition, he designed books for the Kelmscott Press between 1892 and 1898. His illustrations appeared in the following books, among others:[19]

Painting

Beguiling of Merlin
The Beguiling of Merlin, 1874

In 1864 Burne-Jones was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours (also known as the Old Water-Colour Society), and exhibited, among other works, The Merciful Knight, the first picture which fully revealed his ripened personality as an artist. The next six years saw a series of fine watercolours at the same gallery.[11] In 1866 Mrs Cassavetti commissioned Burne-Jones to paint her daughter, Maria Zambaco, in Cupid finding Psyche, an introduction which led to their tragic affair. In 1870, Burne-Jones resigned his membership following a controversy over his painting Phyllis and Demophoön. The features of Maria Zambaco were clearly recognizable in the barely draped Phyllis (as they are in several of Burne-Jones's finest works), and the undraped nakedness of Demophoön coupled with the suggestion of female sexual assertiveness offended Victorian sensibilities. Burne-Jones was asked to make a slight alteration, but instead "withdrew not only the picture from the walls, but himself from the Society."[20][21]

During the next seven years, 1870–1877, only two works of the painter's were exhibited. These were two water-colours, shown at the Dudley Gallery in 1873, one of them being the beautiful Love among the Ruins, destroyed twenty years later by a cleaner who supposed it to be an oil painting, but afterwards reproduced in oils by the painter. This silent period was, however, one of unremitting production. Hitherto Burne-Jones had worked almost entirely in water-colours. He now began a number of large pictures in oils, working at them in turn, and having always several on hand. The first Briar Rose series, Laus Veneris, the Golden Stairs, the Pygmalion series, and The Mirror of Venus are among the works planned and completed, or carried far towards completion, during these years.[11] These years also mark the beginnings of Burne-Jones's partnership with the fine-art photographer Frederick Hollyer, whose reproductions of paintings and—especially—drawings would expose a wider audience to Burne-Jones's works in the coming decades.[22]

Burne-jones cophetua
King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, 1884, currently in the Tate Gallery, London.

At last, in May 1877, the day of recognition came, with the opening of the first exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery, when the Days of Creation, The Beguiling of Merlin, and the Mirror of Venus were all shown. Burne-Jones followed up the signal success of these pictures with Laus Veneris, the Chant d'Amour, Pan and Psyche, and other works, exhibited in 1878. Most of these pictures are painted in brilliant colours. A change is noticeable the next year, 1879, in the Annunciation and in the four pictures making up the second series of Pygmalion and the Image; the former of these, one of the simplest and most perfect of the artist's works, is subdued and sober; in the latter a scheme of soft and delicate tints was attempted, not with entire success. A similar temperance of colours marks The Golden Stairs, first exhibited in 1880. The almost sombre Wheel of Fortune was shown in 1883, followed in 1884 by King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, in which Burne-Jones once more indulged his love of gorgeous colour, refined by the period of self-restraint. He next turned to two important sets of pictures, The Briar Rose and The Story of Perseus, though these were not completed for some years.[11]

Burne-Jones was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1885, and the following year he exhibited (for the only time) at the Academy, showing The Depths of the Sea, a painting of a mermaid carrying down with her a youth whom she has unconsciously drowned in the impetuosity of her love. This picture adds to the habitual haunting charm a tragic irony of conception and a felicity of execution which give it a place apart among Burne-Jones's works. He formally resigned his Associateship in 1893. One of the Perseus series was exhibited in 1887, two more in 1888, with The Brazen Tower, inspired by the same legend. In 1890 the second series of The Legend of Briar Rose were exhibited by themselves, and won the widest admiration. The huge watercolor, The Star of Bethlehem, painted for the corporation of Birmingham, was exhibited in 1891. A long illness for some time checked the painter's activity, which, when resumed, was much occupied with decorative schemes. An exhibition of his work was held at the New Gallery in the winter of 1892–1893. To this period belong several of his comparatively few portraits. In 1894 Burne-Jones was made a baronet. Ill-health again interrupted the progress of his works, chief among which was the vast Arthur in Avalon. In the winter following his death a second exhibition of his works was held at the New Gallery, and an exhibition of his drawings (including some of the charmingly humorous sketches made for children) at the Burlington Fine Arts Club.[11]

Design for the theatre

In 1894, theatrical manager and actor Henry Irving commissioned Burne-Jones to design sets and costumes for the Lyceum Theatre production of King Arthur by J. Comyns Carr, who was Burne-Jones's patron and the director of the New Gallery as well as a playwright. The play starred Irving as King Arthur and Ellen Terry as Guinevere, and toured America following its London run.[23][24][25] Burne-Jones accepted the commission with some enthusiasm, but was disappointed with much of the final result. He wrote confidentially to his friend Helen Mary Gaskell (known as May), "The armour is good—they have taken pains with it ... Perceval looked the one romantic thing in it ... I hate the stage, don't tell—but I do."[26]

Aesthetics

Burne-Jones's paintings were one strand in the evolving tapestry of Aestheticism from the 1860s through the 1880s, which considered that art should be valued as an object of beauty engendering a sensual response, rather than for the story or moral implicit in the subject matter. In many ways this was antithetical to the ideals of Ruskin and the early Pre-Raphaelites.[27] Burne-Jones's aim in art is best given in some of his own words, written to a friend:

I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful – and then I wake up, with the waking of Brynhild.[11]

No artist was ever more true to his aim. Ideals resolutely pursued are apt to provoke the resentment of the world, and Burne-Jones encountered, endured and conquered an extraordinary amount of angry criticism. Insofar as this was directed against the lack of realism in his pictures, it was beside the point. The earth, the sky, the rocks, the trees, the men and women of Burne-Jones are not those of this world; but they are themselves a world, consistent with itself, and having therefore its own reality. Charged with the beauty and with the strangeness of dreams, it has nothing of a dream's incoherence. Yet it is a dreamer always whose nature penetrates these works, a nature out of sympathy with struggle and strenuous action. Burne-Jones's men and women are dreamers too. It was this which, more than anything else, estranged him from the age into which he was born. But he had an inbred "revolt from fact" which would have estranged him from the actualities of any age. That criticism seems to be more justified which has found in him a lack of such victorious energy and mastery over his materials as would have enabled him to carry out his conceptions in their original intensity. Yet Burne-Jones was singularly strenuous in production. His industry was inexhaustible, and needed to be, if it was to keep pace with the constant pressure of his ideas. Whatever faults his paintings may have, they have always the fundamental virtue of design; they are always pictures. His designs were informed with a mind of romantic temper, apt in the discovery of beautiful subjects, and impassioned with a delight in pure and variegated colour.[11]

Honours

Edward Burne-Jones.The last sleep of Arthur
Burne-Jones' The last sleep of Arthur at Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico

In 1881 Burne-Jones received an honorary degree from Oxford, and was made an Honorary Fellow in 1882.[3] In 1885 he became the President of the Birmingham Society of Artists. At about that time he began hyphenating his name, merely—as he wrote later—to avoid "annihilation" in the mass of Joneses.[28] In November 1893, he was approached to see if he would accept a Baronetcy on the recommendation of the outgoing Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, the following February he legally changed his name to Burne-Jones[29] He was formally created a baronet of Rottingdean, in the county of Sussex, and of the Grange, in the parish of Fulham, in the county of London in the baronetage of the United Kingdom on 3 May 1894,[30] but remained unhappy about accepting the honour, which disgusted his socialist friend Morris and was scorned by his equally socialist wife Georgiana.[28][29] Only his son Philip, who mixed with the set of the Prince of Wales and would inherit the title, truly wanted it.[29]

Morris died in 1896, and the health of the devastated Burne-Jones declined substantially. In 1898 he suffered an attack of influenza, and had apparently recovered when he was again taken suddenly ill, and died on 17 June 1898.[11][31] Six days later, at the intervention of the Prince of Wales, a memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey. It was the first time an artist had been so honoured. Burne-Jones was buried in the churchyard at St Margaret's Church, Rottingdean,[32] a place he knew through summer family holidays.

Elected member of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium in 1897.[33]

Influence

Blue plaque Edward Burne-Jones
Blue plaque on Bennetts Hill, Birmingham

Burne-Jones exerted a considerable influence on French painting. He was also highly influential among French symbolist painters, from 1889.[34] His work inspired poetry by Swinburne – Swinburne's 1866 Poems & Ballads is dedicated to Burne-Jones.

Three of Burne-Jones's studio assistants, John Melhuish Strudwick, T. M. Rooke and Charles Fairfax Murray, went on to successful painting careers. Murray later became an important collector and respected art dealer. Between 1903 and 1907 he sold a great many works by Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, at far below their market worth. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery now has the largest collection of works by Burne-Jones in the world, including the massive watercolour Star of Bethlehem, commissioned for the Gallery in 1897. The paintings are believed by some to have influenced the young J. R. R. Tolkien, then growing up in Birmingham.[35]

Burne-Jones was also a very strong influence on the Birmingham Group of artists, from the 1890s onwards.

Neglect and rediscovery

On 16 June 1933, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, a nephew of Burne-Jones, officially opened the centenary exhibition featuring Burne-Jones's drawings and paintings at the Tate Gallery in London. In his opening speech at the exhibition, Baldwin expressed what the art of Burne-Jones stood for:

In my view, what he did for us common people was to open, as never had been opened before, magic casements of a land of faery in which he lived throughout his life ... It is in that inner world we can cherish in peace, beauty which he has left us and in which there is peace at least for ourselves. The few of us who knew him and loved him well, always keep him in our hearts, but his work will go on long after we have passed away. It may give its message in one generation to a few or in other to many more, but there it will be for ever for those who seek in their generation, for beauty and for those who can recognise and reverence a great man, and a great artist.[36]

But, in fact, long before 1933, Burne-Jones was hopelessly out of fashion in the art world, much of which soon preferred the major trends in Modern art, and the exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of his birth was a sad affair, poorly attended.[37] It was not until the mid-1970s that his work began to be re-assessed and once again acclaimed. Penelope Fitzgerald published a biography of him in 1975, her first book.[38] A major exhibit in 1989 at the Barbican Art Gallery, London (in book form as: John Christian, The Last Romantics, 1989), traced Burne-Jones's influence on the next generation of artists, and another at Tate Britain in 1997 explored the links between British Aestheticism and Symbolism.[34]

A second lavish centenary exhibit – this time marking the 100th anniversary of Burne-Jones's death – was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1998, before traveling to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.[39]

Fiona MacCarthy, in a review of Burne-Jones's legacy, notes that he was "a painter who, while quintessentially Victorian, leads us forward to the psychological and sexual introspection of the early twentieth century".[40]

Gallery

Stained and painted glass

Edward Burne-Jones Daniel 1873

Cartoon for Daniel window, St. Martin's-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, 1873

Boston Trinity Church 04

Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris' Nativity windows (1882), Trinity Church, Boston

USA Massachusetts Boston Trinity Nativity-window

The Worship of the Magi window (1882), Trinity Church, Boston.

USA Massachusetts Boston Trinity-Nativity-detail-2

The Worship of the Shepherds window (1882), Trinity Church, Boston

Burnejoneswindow

Nativity scene in St Mary's Church, Huish Episcopi, Somerset

David Burne-Jones

David 1872, in St Michael and All Angels, Waterford, Hertfordshire

Miriam Burne-Jones

Miriam, 1872 in St Michael and All Angels, Waterford, Hertfordshire

E.Burne-Jones Miriam St.Giles

Miriam, 1886 in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh

Salvator Mundi Burne-Jones

Christ as Salvator Mundi, 1896 in St Michael and All Angels, Waterford, Hertfordshire

Staveley crucifixion

Crucifixion window in St James's Church, Staveley, Cumbria

Staveley angel playing harp

Angel window in St. James's Church, Staveley, Cumbria

Old West Kirk EBJ Music

Music in the Old West Kirk, Greenock

Drawings

Edward Burne-Jones The Knights Farewell

The Knight's Farewell, 1858, pen-and-ink on vellum, 1858

Edward Burne-Jones Going to the Battle 1858

Going to the Battle, pen-and-ink with gray wash on vellum, 1858

Dalziel Brothers after Edward Burne-Jones King Sigurd 1862

King Sigurd, woodcut engraving by the Dalziel Bros. after a pen-and-ink drawing, 1862

Burne-Jones Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Portrait of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, 1892

Paintings

Early works

Burne ,Princess Sabra Led to the Dragon

The Princess Sabra Led to the Dragon, 1866

Edward Burne-Jones Maria Zambaco 1870

Portrait of Maria Zambaco, 1870

Edward Burne-Jones Phyllis and Demophoon 1870

Phyllis and Demophoön, 1870

Edward Burne-Jones Temperantia 1872

Temperantia, 1872

Pygmalion (first series)

The Heart Desires, Pygmalion (Burne-Jones)

The Heart Desires, 1868–70

The Hand Refrains, Pygmalion (Burne-Jones)i

The Hand Refrains, 1868–1870

The Godhead Fires, Pygmalion (Burne-Jones)

The Godhead Fires, 1868–70

The Soul Attains, Pygmalion (Burne-Jones)

The Soul Attains, 1868–70

Pygmalion and the Image (second series)

The Grosvenor Gallery years

Edward Burne-Jones Pan and Psyche

Pan and Psyche, 1874

Edward Burne-Jones The Annunciation

The Annunciation, 1879

Burnejones3

The Angel, 1881

The Mill by Edward Burne-Jones

The Mill, 1882

Edward Burne-Jones - An Angel Playing a Flageolet

An Angel Playing a Flageolet - Sudley House, Liverpool, England

The Legend of Briar Rose (second series)

Briar Wood Buscot Park

The Briar Wood, completed 1890

The Council Chamber Buscot Park

The Council Chamber, 1890

The Garden Court Buscot Park

The Garden Court, 1890

The Rose Bower Buscot Park

The Rose Bower, 1890

Later works

Edward Burne-Jones - Perseus.jpeg

The Doom Fulfilled, 1888 (Perseus Cycle 7)

If looks could kill

The Baleful Head, 1887 (Perseus Cycle 8)

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones - Vespertina Quies - Google Art Project

Vespertina Quies, 1893

Burne-jones-love-among-the-ruins

Love Among the Ruins, 1894 recreation in oils

Decorative arts

Rubaiyat Morris Burne-Jones Manuscript

Illuminated manuscript of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by William Morris, illustrated by Burne-Jones with a variant of Love Among the Ruins, 1870s

Holy Grail Tapestry -The Arming and Departure of the Kniights

The Arming and Departure of the Knights, one of the Holy Grail tapestries, 1890s, figures by Burne-Jones.

Kelmscott Troilus

A page from the Kelmscott Chaucer, decoration by Morris and illustration by Burne-Jones, 1896

Theatre

Carrcraven7

Scene from King Arthur, sets by Burne-Jones, 1895

Ellen Terry as Guinevere costume by Burne-Jones

Ellen Terry as Guinevere, costume by Burne-Jones, 1894

Photographs

Frederick Hollyer Morris and Burne-Jones Families 1874

The Burne-Jones and Morris families in the garden at the Grange, 1874, photograph by Frederick Hollyer

Frederick Hollyer portrait of Edward Burne-Jones c1882

Edward Burne-Jones, c. 1882 (Hollyer)

Frederick Hollyer portrait of Georgiana Burne-Jones c1882

Georgiana Burne-Jones, c. 1882 (Hollyer)

Frederick Hollyer Garden Studio at the Grange 1887

Burne-Jones's garden studio at the Grange, 1887 (Hollyer)

External video
Burne-Jones' King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid
Burne Jones's The Golden Stairs
Burne-Jones's Hope,
All at Smarthistory[41]

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ Wildman 1998, pp. 42–43.
  2. ^ Daly 1989, pp. 249–251.
  3. ^ a b c d  Ward, Thomas Humphry (1901). "Burne-Jones, Edward Coley" . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. ^ Newall, Christopher. "Jones, Sir Edward Coley Burne-, first baronet (1833–1898)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4051. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Rose 1981, p. 78.
  6. ^ a b  Mackail, John William (1901). "Morris, William (1834–1896)" . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ Wildman 1998, p. 107.
  8. ^ a b Wildman 1998, p. 114.
  9. ^ Flanders 2001, pp. 118–120.
  10. ^ Flanders 2001, p. 136.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Burne" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 848–850.
  12. ^ Marsh, Letters and Diaries, p. 110
  13. ^ Wildman 1998, p. 66.
  14. ^ "Saint Cecilia (y1974–84)". Princeton University Art Museum. Princeton University.
  15. ^ Parry 1996, pp. 139–140, Domestic Decoration.
  16. ^ Edward Burne-Jones Southgate Green Association "His work included both stained-glass windows for Christ Church in Oxford and the stained glass windows for Christ Church on Southgate Green."
  17. ^ PreRaphaelite Painting and Design Archived 14 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine University of Texas
  18. ^ Parry 1996, pp. 146–147, Domestic Decoration.
  19. ^ Souter & Souter 2012, p. 19.
  20. ^ Roget 1891, p. 116.
  21. ^ Wildman 1998, p. 138.
  22. ^ Wildman 1998, pp. 197–198.
  23. ^ Wildman 1998, p. 315.
  24. ^ Wood 1999, p. 119.
  25. ^ "Miss Terry as Guinevere; In a Play by Comyns Carr, Dressed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones". The New York Times. 5 November 1895. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  26. ^ Wood 1999, p. 120.
  27. ^ Wildman 1998, pp. 112–113.
  28. ^ a b Taylor 1987, pp. 150–151.
  29. ^ a b c Flanders 2001, p. 258.
  30. ^ "No. 26509". The London Gazette. 4 May 1894. p. 2613.
  31. ^ "No. 26988". The London Gazette. 19 July 1898. p. 4396.
  32. ^ Dale 1989, p. 212.
  33. ^ Index biographique des membres et associés de l'Académie royale de Belgique (1769–2005). p 44
  34. ^ a b "The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860–1910". Archived from the original on 28 March 2006. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  35. ^ Bracken, Pamela (4 March 2006). "Echoes of Fellowship: The PRB and the Inklings". Conference paper, C. S. Lewis & the Inklings. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Centenary exhibition of Sir Edward Burne-Jones at London Tate Gallery". Straits Times. 24 July 1933. p. 6.
  37. ^ Wildman 1998, p. 1.
  38. ^ Fitzgerald 1975.
  39. ^ Wildman 1998, Front matter.
  40. ^ Tate: "A Visionary Oddity: Fiona MacCarthy on Edward Burne-Jones"
  41. ^ "Burne-Jones's Hope". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

Bibliography

Further reading

  • MacCarthy, Fiona (2011). The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22861-4.
  • Arscott, Caroline. William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press (Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), 2008). ISBN 978-0-300-14093-4.
  • Mackail, J. W., The Life of William Morris in two volumes, London, New York and Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co., 1899.
  • Marsh, Jan, Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938, London, Pandora Press, 1986 ISBN 0-86358-026-2.
  • Marsh, Jan, Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938 (updated edition, privately published by author), London, 2000.
  • Robinson, Duncan (1982). William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and the Kelmscott Chaucer. London: Gordon Fraser.
  • Spalding, Frances (1978). Magnificent Dreams: Burne-Jones and the Late Victorians. Oxford: Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-1827-5.

External links

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Rottingdean and of the Grange)

1894–1898
Succeeded by
Philip Burne-Jones
Easthampstead

Easthampstead is today a southern suburb of the town of Bracknell in the English county of Berkshire, although the old village can still be easily identified around the Church of St Michael and St Mary Magdalene. This beautiful building houses some of the finest stained glass works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

Georgiana Burne-Jones

Georgiana Burne-Jones, Lady Burne-Jones (Birmingham, 21 July 1840 – 2 February 1920), the second oldest of the Macdonald sisters, was the wife of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artist Edward Burne-Jones, mother of painter Philip Burne-Jones, aunt of novelist Rudyard Kipling, confidante and friend of William Morris and George Eliot, and something of a painter and engraver in her own right. She was a Trustee of the South London Gallery and was elected to the parish Council of Rottingdean, near Brighton in Sussex.

She is known for the biography of her husband, The Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones and for publishing his Flower Book. She became the mother-in-law of John William Mackail, who married her daughter Margaret. Their children were the novelists Angela Thirkell and Denis Mackail.

Hope (Burne-Jones)

Hope is a late oil painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. It was painted on commission for Mrs. George Marston Whitin of Whitinsville, Massachusetts in 1896.Mrs. Whitin originally requested a painting of a dancing figure, but Burne-Jones, devastated by the recent death of his long-time friend and partner William Morris, struggled with the work and wrote to ask if a painting of Hope would be an acceptable alternative. The result was an allegory in the Renaissance fashion, with the bound personification of Hope reaching skyward despite her bars.The painting is based on an 1871 watercolour by Burne-Jones. The watercolour is likely painted over the original cartoon for one of a set of stained glass designs of the Christian virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity created by Burne-Jones for Morris, Marshall, Faulknor and Company. A three-light window based on Burne-Jones's designs was commissioned for the nave of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The stained glass designs were also used for a set of windows at St Margaret's Church, Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk and St Martin's Church, Brampton, Cumbria.

The oil painting of Hope was donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Mrs. Whitin's daughters in her memory.

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid (painting)

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid is an 1884 painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. The painting illustrates the story of 'The King and the Beggar-maid", which tells the legend of the prince Cophetua who fell in love at first sight with the beggar Penelophon. The tale was familiar to Burne-Jones through an Elizabethan ballad published in Bishop Thomas Percy's 1765 Reliques of Ancient English Poetry and the sixteen-line poem The Beggar Maid by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.Burne-Jones first attempted the story in an oil painting of 1861–62 (now in the Tate Gallery, London). He was working out a new composition around 1874 or 1875, and began the painting in earnest in 1881. He worked on it through the winter of 1883–84, declaring it finished in April 1884.

The composition is influenced by Andrea Mantegna's Madonna della Vittoria (1496–96). Several studies for the final work survive. A small gouache (bodycolour) of c. 1883 (now in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber) shows the king and the beggar maid much closer together, and a full-scale cartoon in bodycolour and coloured chalks of the same year (now in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) features an entirely different approach to lighting the figures.

King Cophetua was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1884 and became Burne-Jones's greatest success of the 1880s for its technical execution and its themes of power and wealth overborne by beauty and simplicity. It was heralded as the "picture of the year" by The Art Journal and "not only the finest work Mr Burne-Jones has ever painted, but one of the finest pictures ever painted by an Englishman" by The Times. The painting was exhibited in France in 1889, where its popularity earned Burne-Jones the Legion of Honour and began a vogue for his work. The artist's wife Georgiana Burne-Jones felt "this picture contained more of Edward's own qualities than any other he did."The painting was purchased by the Earl of Wharncliffe (d. 1899) and acquired by public subscription through the Burne-Jones Memorial Fund from his executors in 1900. It is now in Tate Britain. The full-scale cartoon was acquired for Birmingham in 1947.

List of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones

This is a list of the paintings of the British Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.

Maria Zambaco

Maria Zambaco (29 April 1843, London – 14 July 1914, Paris), born Marie Terpsithea Cassavetti (Greek: Μαρία Τερψιθέα Κασσαβέτη, sometimes spelled Maria Tepsithia Kassavetti or referred to as Mary), was a British artist and model of Greek descent. She was favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites.

Oxford Union murals

The Oxford Union murals (1857–1859) are a series of mural decorations in the Oxford Union library building. The series was executed by a team of Pre-Raphaelite artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. The paintings depict scenes from Arthurian myth.

The murals were commissioned by John Ruskin and the subject was probably chosen as a result of earlier Pre-Raphaelite interest in Arthurian themes, such as the illustrations to Edward Moxon's 1857 edition of Tennyson. In addition to Rossetti, Morris and Burne-Jones, several other artists agreed to contribute. These were the painters Val Prinsep, Arthur Hughes, J. H. Pollen, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope and the sculptor Alexander Munro.

The process of painting the murals was notoriously chaotic. Ruskin said that the artists were "all the least bit crazy and it's very difficult to manage them." As the murals were painted directly onto the wall without plaster or adequate underpainting they began to suffer decay very quickly. William Morris later completely repainted his design for the ceiling.

Rossetti's main work was Sir Lancelot's Vision of the Holy Grail. Burne-Jones painted Nimue brings Sir Peleus to Ettarde after their Quarrel. Morris executed Sir Palomides' jealousy of Sir Tristram and Iseult, though his work has been described as “poorly and clumsily painted, but the background of leaves and flowers” revealed his skills in design.Jane Burden, who would later marry William Morris, first appears as a model in the Oxford murals. Burden was noticed by Rossetti and Burne-Jones when she was visiting an Oxford theatre with her sister. Struck by Jane's beauty, they sought her to model for them.

In 1906 Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite colleague William Holman Hunt, who had not been directly involved, wrote a book on the history of the decorations.

Pygmalion and the Image series

Pygmalion and the Image is the second series of four oil paintings in the Pygmalion and Galatea series by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones which was completed between 1875 and 1878. The two collections may be seen below, in the Gallery, the first being now owned by Lord Lloyd Webber, and the second housed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. This article deals with an appraisal of the second series.

Sponsa de Libano

Sponsa de Libano (The Bride of Lebanon) is a painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones dated 1891.

The painting is based on extracts from the Song of Solomon in the Bible. "Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse ..." "Awake, O north wind; and come thou south; blow upon my garden ..." It shows the bride walking in the garden with female personifications of the two winds blowing towards her. On each side of the bride are white lilies, symbolising her virginity. The pose of the bride is inspired by Botticelli's figures. The painting is based on an earlier design by Burne-Jones for a tapestry.Sponsa de Libano forms part of the Victorian collection in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It is painted in gouache and tempera on paper and measures 332.5 centimetres (131 in) by 155.5 centimetres (61 in). The picture was purchased by the gallery in 1896. In the same year the gallery purchased a study for the painting. This had been prepared in about 1891, drawn in chalk on paper, and shows the head used for one of the winds. The model was a twelve-year-old Jewish girl, who modelled for both winds, and was told to "look wild and blow with your lips". The study is now held by the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Merseyside.

Star of Bethlehem (painting)

The Star of Bethlehem is a painting in watercolour by Sir Edward Burne-Jones depicting the Adoration of the Magi with an angel holding the star of Bethlehem. It was commissioned by the Corporation of the City of Birmingham for its new Museum and Art Gallery in 1887, two years after Burne-Jones was elected Honorary President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. At 101 1/8 x 152 inches, The Star of Bethlehem was the largest watercolour of the 19th century. It was completed in 1890 and was first exhibited in 1891.

The Beguiling of Merlin

The Beguiling of Merlin is a painting by the British Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones that was created between 1872 and 1877.

The painting depicts a scene from the Arthurian legend about the infatuation of Merlin with the Lady of the Lake, Nimue. Merlin is shown trapped, helpless in a hawthorn bush as Nimue reads from a book of spells.The work was commissioned from Burne-Jones by Frederick Richards Leyland, a Liverpool ship-owner and art-collector, in the late 1860s. After a false start blamed on "poor materials", Burne-Jones began work on the painting proper in 1873, finishing the body of the work by the end of 1874; however, the painting was not first exhibited until 1877 at the opening exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery in London.Burne-Jones used Maria Zambaco, who was probably his mistress from 1866 to 1872, for the model for the head of Nimue.The Beguiling of Merlin was purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1918 and remains in the Lady Lever Art Gallery to the present day.The painting features on the covers of the books Possession: A Romance (1990), by A. S. Byatt, and Fiona MacCarthy's biography of Burne-Jones, The Last Pre-Raphaelite (2011). The painting also plays a significant role in the 1991 novel King Solomon's Carpet by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine.

The Flower Book (Edward Burne-Jones)

The Flower Book by Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) is a series of 38 round watercolours, each about six inches across, painted from 1882 to 1898. The paintings do not depict flowers; rather, they were inspired by the flowers' names. Burne-Jones called them "a series of illustrations to the Names of Flowers". "Not a single flower itself appears", according to his wife Georgiana. They were painted for his private pleasure, many while he was resting at his summer home in Rottingdean, and were described by his wife as the "most soothing piece of work that he ever did". In 1905 Georgiana, by then a widow, published a limited edition of high-quality colour facsimiles.

The Garden of Pan

The Garden of Pan is a painting by the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones which was completed around 1886 and is currently housed at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Golden Stairs

The Golden Stairs is one of the best-known paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. It was begun in 1876 and exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880.Unlike many of Burne-Jones's works, The Golden Stairs is not based on a literary source. It has been called Symbolist, as it has no recognisable narrative, but rather sets a mood. It is a harmony of color in the tradition of the Aesthetic works of the 1860s and 1870s, as a group of young women carrying musical instruments descend a spiraling staircase, dressed in classically inspired robes in tones of white, shading to gold and silver. Critic F. G. Stephens wrote in The Athenaeum that the musicians "troop past like spirits in an enchanted dream ... whither they go, who they are, there is nothing to tell".The Golden Stairs was one of many paintings Burne-Jones sketched out in 1872 following a trip to Italy. He began work on the canvas in 1876 and finished it in great haste in April 1880, just days before the Grosvenor Gallery exhibition was to open. Stephens found in the painting echoes of the work of Piero della Francesca, whose frescoes Burne-Jones had seen and copied in 1871. The figures of the musicians were drawn from professional models, but the heads are young women of Burne-Jones's circle. Some identifications have been made as follows.

His daughter Margaret is fourth from top, holding a trumpet. Edith Gellibrand, known by the stage name Edith Chester, is seventh from top, seen stooping. May Morris, daughter of William Morris, is ninth from top, holding a violin. Frances Graham, later known as Lady Horner, daughter of William Graham, is bottom left, holding cymbals. Standing behind her on the stairs is Mary Gladstone, daughter of William Gladstone. Others include Laura Tennant, later known as Laura Lyttelton, and Mary Stuart-Wortley, later Lady Lovelace.The painting was purchased by Cyril Flower (1843–1907), later Lord Battersea, a politician and art patron, and was bequeathed by him to the Tate Gallery, where it remains.

The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon

The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon is a painting by Edward Burne-Jones, started in 1881. The massive painting measures 279 cm × 650 cm, and is widely considered to be Burne-Jones's magnum opus.The painting was originally commissioned from Burne-Jones by his patron George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, to hang on a wall in the library of Naworth Castle. Howard shared Burne-Jones's affection for the Arthurian legend and left the choice of topic to the artist. Burne-Jones started working on it in 1881 and continued for 17 years. Within this period, he also designed the stage set for the play King Arthur by J. Comyns Carr that premiered in London in January 1895.The 1880s brought the deaths of Burne-Jones's close friends. As they died, the artist experienced mounting isolation and painful awareness of his own mortality. Immersed in his work, Burne-Jones identified himself with Arthur and even adopted Arthur's pose when he himself slept. By 1885, the association with Arthur reached the point where Burne-Jones had to ask Howard to cancel or revise his original commission, replacing the grand scene with a smaller painting focused on the departed king. Howard agreed to cancellation and never requested his downpayment back. Nevertheless, Burne-Jones returned to the original grand painting, and worked on it for the remaining thirteen years of his life. Arthur became increasingly autobiographical for the artist as he withdrew into himself; "above all the picture is about silence."

How is it you are in Avalon, where I have striven to be with all my might — and how did you get there and how does Arthur the King? ...

A popular opinion holds that Burne-Jones modelled Arthur's appearance after William Morris, the last survivor of a once-strong progressive art circle, and that Morris's physical decline was a major inspiration for the painting. However, Debra Mancoff argues that there is no record of Morris posing as Arthur and that the king's image was completed when Morris was in vigorous health. Morris died in 1896; Burne-Jones lived for two more years and died before the painting was complete. Just one day before his death Burne-Jones continued work on Arthur. Towards the end of his life he wrote, "I need nothing but my hands and my brain to fashion myself a world to live in that nothing can disturb. In my own land I am king of it." His widow described Arthur as a "task of love to which [the artist] put no limit of time or labour."Following the artist's death, the painting in its frame with Latin inscription passed to a neighbour of Burne-Jones's, whose descendants, John and Penryn Monck, sold the work at auction at Christie's on 26 April 1963 where it was bought by Luis A. Ferré, a politician and founder of the Ponce Museum of Art who would later become Governor of Puerto Rico. Burne-Jones was out of fashion at this time so its export was allowed despite some objections.

The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon is owned by the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico. However, it was shown for a short time at Tate Britain in London in 2009–10 while the Ponce museum underwent restoration. The painting was also on view at that time at the Prado Museum in Madrid for the exhibition The Sleeping Beauty: Victorian Painting from The Museo de Arte de Ponce (2 February 2009 - 31 May 2009).

The Legend of Briar Rose

The Legend of Briar Rose is the title of a series of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones which were completed between 1885 and 1890. The four original paintings – The Briar Wood, The Council Chamber, The Garden Court and The Rose Bower – and an additional ten adjoining panels, are located at Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, England.

The four major panels were first exhibited at Agnew's Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1890. They were acquired by Alexander Henderson, later to become the Lord Faringdon, for Buscot Park. When Burne-Jones visited the house and saw the paintings in their new setting he decided to extend the frames of each of the four paintings and fill in the gaps with joining panels which continued the rose motif from the main paintings.

The Merciful Knight

The Merciful Knight is a watercolour by the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones which was completed in 1863 and is currently housed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

The Mill (Burne-Jones painting)

The Mill is an Aesthetic Movement, Renaissance-inspired oil on canvas painting completed by Edward Burne-Jones in 1882. It is a mysterious painting with no particular meaning. The painting's main feature is three women dancing in front of a mill pond on a summer evening, with a vague wooded landscape spanning the background. The Mill is currently in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Nativity (Burne-Jones)

The Nativity is one of a pair of monumental paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones commissioned for the chancel of the church of St John the Apostle, Torquay, England, in 1887. The Gothic Revival church was designed by architect George Edmund Street in the 1860s and decorated by Morris & Co., the decorative arts firm in which Burne-Jones was a partner.St John's sold The Nativity and its companion painting, known as The King and the Shepherd, in 1989 to pay for a new roof for the church (copies were hung in their places). The two paintings were acquired for £1.5 million by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, a collector of Victorian art. In 1997, Lloyd Webber donated the paintings to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, United States, where his musical Jesus Christ Superstar had premiered in 1971.

In this treatment of the birth of Jesus, Burne-Jones places Mary reclining protectively around the infant Jesus while Joseph looks on. At the left are three angels bearing the symbols of the Passion and Crucifixion, the crown of thorns, a container of myrrh and a chalice. The painting bears an inscription in Latin from the Gallican Psalter (Psalm 11, verse 6) PROPTER MISERIAM INOPUM ET GEMITUM PAUPERIS NUNC EXSURGAM DICIT DOMINUS ["Because of the misery of the poor and the groaning of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord"].

Several studies for The Nativity have survived. A pencil drawing sold at Sotheby's New York in 2012 places Joseph on the right, while an 1887 pastel sketch in the Garman-Ryan Collection at The New Art Gallery Walsall shows the final composition but a very different colour palette.The position of Mary and Jesus echoes Burne-Jones' design for a bronze relief of the Nativity of 1879. The relief was commissioned by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle as part of a monument to his parents for Lanercost Priory, Cumbria. A drawing of this design is in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

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