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Edward Burne-Jones’ Mythical Paintings

The Pygmalion of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters

Liana De Girolami Cheney

This book focuses on Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ mythical paintings from 1868 to 1886. His artistic training and traveling experiences, his love for the Greek-sculptress, Maria Zambaco, and his aesthetic sensibility provided the background for these mythical paintings. This book analyzes two main concepts: Burne-Jones’ assimilation of Neoplatonic ideal beauty as depicted in his solo and narrative paintings, and Burne-Jones’ fusion of the classical and emblematic traditions in his imagery.


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Part II. Mythical Cycles: Sagas of Love,Enchantment, and Strife


PART II Mythical Cycles: Sagas of Love, Enchantment, and Strife CHAPTER FOUR Sagas of Love, Enchantment, and Strife In Part II, chapters on mythical paintings reveal Edward Burne-Jones’ influences of classical and medieval ideals of beauty, love, and valor. They focus on Burne-Jones’ visualization of love based on historical sagas, mostly found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, such as The Story of Troy (Paris and Helen) of 1870–72, The Story of Perseus and Andromeda of 1875–78, and The Story of Pygmalion and Galatea of 1868–78. In The Story of Cupid and Psyche of 1872–81, Burne-Jones recounts the love tale in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass from the second century. In the depiction of these paintings, he unveils his knowledge of books on ancient and nineteenth-century classical mythology such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses of the first century, Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable Stories of Gods and Heroes of 1855, and early known versions of James Frazer’s Golden Bough, later published in 1890. Burne-Jones’ imagery also reflects his familiarity and interest in medieval love sagas such as The Romaunt of the Rose of 1877–97. He relies in particular on the courtly tales of Guillaume de Lorris et Jean de Meun, La Roman de la Rose of 1230–75, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales of the fourteenth century, Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur of 1470, and Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of 1499. In these love stories, Burne-Jones focuses on various aspects and relationships of love, such as the love between mortals,...

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