Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Merciful Knight - Edward Burne-Jones

This is arguably Burne-Jones's most important early work. In the memorial biography of her husband, Georgiana Burne-Jones stated that it seemed: 'to sum up and seal the ten years that had passed since Edward first went to Oxford'. In terms of design, technique and expression, the picture demonstrates that Burne-Jones had reached a new and more personal style. It remained Burne-Jones's own favourite among his early works and in 1894 he tried to borrow it to make a large oil version.The subject is taken from the life of the Florentine knight St John Gualberto, founder of the Valombrosan Order in 1039, who was miraculously embraced by a wooden figure of Christ while praying at a wayside shrine after forgiving the murder of his kinsman. This obscure legend was unlikely to be familiar to a wide audience and this further enhanced its mystical and intensely poetic quality. Incidentally, the marigolds in the foreground came from the 'town garden' in Russell Square, close to Burne-Jones's house opposite the British Museum.

Watercolour with bodycolour on paper.

1 comment:

Hels said...

This obscure legend was unlikely to be familiar to a wide audience - quite true. But I am never sure if that enhances the poetic quality or leaves the viewer a tad uncertain. Of course modern viewers don't necessarily understand everything that 19th century viewers might have taken for granted.