Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sir Edward Burne Jones' Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty Paintings

Sleeping Beauty is my all time favourite fairy tale. I was obsessed with the story the first time my parents read it to me and I adored the Disney film. My dad took me to see it in the theatre when I was six years old and for the next year I was obsessed with spinning wheels! We knew a lady that spun on a spinning wheel and touched the spindle to see if I would fall asleep! Oh my.

I also love Sir Edward Burne-Jones' paintings. They always have an element of the fantastic in them. I love art that tell a story and so many of his paintings and woodcuts do! This series, entitled "Briar Rose," is among my favourites. I think it also shows his artistic talent at its best and most mature.

Burne-Jones's had a longstanding intrest in the story of Sleeping Beauty (or Briar Rose). He first did a tile panel of the story in 1864. Later, in 180 he did a small series of oil paintings for William Graham. In 1890 (nearly thirty years after the first series) Burne-Jones created a large set of four oil paintings that told the story of Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose). The series was purchased by Alexander Henderson, who later became the first Lord Faringdon, and installed in Buscot Park, Oxfordshire (where they still hang today). Burne-Jones's interest in the Sleeping Beauty story of the Briar Rose began as early as a tile panel in 1864. A small series of oil paintings for William Graham followed, and then a larger set of four oils, finally completed in 1890 before being bought by Alexander Henderson, later 1st Lord Faringdon, and installed in Buscot Park, Oxfordshire.

Burne-Jones' friend William Morris composed verses to accompany each of the paintings.

One thing that always bothers me about this series is that you never see Briar Rose wake up! Why do you think that is? You see the prince in the first picture, but the rest of the pictures focus on the sleeping kingdom. Perhaps he just wants to leave the final scene to our imaginations? Hmmm. Nevertheless, they are lovely, lovely paintings (you can click on the pictures to see them full size).

The Briar Wood
The fateful slumber floats and flows
About the tangle of the rose.
But lo the fated hand and heart
To rend the slumberous curse apart.

The Council Chamber
The threat of war, the hope of peace
The Kingdom's peril and increase.
Sleep on, and bide the latter day
When fate shall take her chains away.

The Garden Court
The maiden pleasance of the land
Knoweth no stir of voice or hand,
No cup the sleeping waters fill,
The restless shuttle lieth still.

The Rose Bower
Here lies the hoarded love the key
To all the treasure that shall be.
Come, fated hand, the gift to take
And smite the sleeping world awake.


Tracy said...

Oh, so lovely...I, too, love art work that tells a story. Burne-Jones' works all have elements of wonder and fairy tale about them! Great post! Happy Day ((HUGS))

Susan Tuttle said...

So many beautiful things to look at here - thanks for the wonderful visit!

Stop by sometime if you get a chance.


Stephanie Pina said...

Just this evening my daughter (11) was stretched out on the couch, watching Wheel of Fortune when I was suddenly struck by how similar her pose and the tilt of her head was Burne-Jones' Sleeping Beauty.

These paintings are absolutely huge, by the way. I saw one at a Waking Dreams exhibit in 2006. Breathtaking!

Anonymous said...

I think the scene of Sleeping Beauty coming to life is omitted because it would represent her sexual awakening. Burne-Jones used his 18 year old daughter Margaret as his model and was painfully aware that her own awareness of her sexuality had begun. By stopping before the moment of awakening Burne-Jones delays the surrender of Brair Rose to the Prince and the surrender of his daughter to a husband.

Anna said...

This is beautiful. One thing, though. You mixed up the middle two paintings. The Council Chamber is meant to go before the Garden Court.