The Passing of Venus

Sir Edward Burne-Jones British

Not on view

Overwhelming passion was a constant theme in Burne-Jones’s art. He was working on this study for a Morris & Company tapestry showing Venus’ conquest when he died in 1898. Although preliminary, the intricate composition is clearly established: the goddess enters at left in a winged chariot while Cupid prepares the way. As women fall before him, he fits an arrow for the next victim among a crowd of nervous beauties. Burne-Jones invented the motif, drawing on medieval poetry and Renaissance allegories of the triumph of love, for his personal homage to the irresistible power of desire. The design was used by Merton Abbey Tapestry Works to weave two tapestries, in 1908 and 1922. The first was destroyed by fire and the second is now at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Passing of Venus, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, Birmingham 1833–1898 Fulham), Gouache (bodycolor) and metallic paint on cardboard

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