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The Car of Love

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1891-1898 (painted)
    begun ca. 1870-1872 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Burne-Jones, Edward Coley (Sir), born 1833 - died 1898 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lady Burne-Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Stair L

Physical description

Oil painting

Place of Origin

London (painted)


ca. 1891-1898 (painted)
begun ca. 1870-1872 (designed)


Burne-Jones, Edward Coley (Sir), born 1833 - died 1898 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 204 in estimate, Width: 107.5 in estimate

Object history note

The Car of Love was given to the V&A by Lady Burne-Jones in 1909.

Historical significance: Edward Burne-Jones was the leading figure in the second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His paintings of subjects from medieval legend and Classical mythology and his designs for stained glass, tapestry and many other media played an important part in the Aesthetic Movement and the history of international Symbolism.

The triumphal procession of Love was a common theme in Medieval and Renaissance literature and art. However, the specific basis of Burne-Jones's composition in The Car of Loveis a long allegorical poem by the 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch, the Trionfior Triumphs. The poet has a vision of a number of victorious pageants or triumphal processions, in which historical, Biblical or mythological figures take part. The first triumph is that of Love over the human heart; the next is Chastity, which triumphs over Love; followed in turn by Death, Fame, Time, and finally Eternity, which triumphs over all.

In this unfinished painting Burne-Jones shows Cupid, the god of love, being pulled on a great chariot down a narrow city street by a crowd of men and women. Some laugh, others appear anguished. The architectural background is based on the narrow streets of Medieval Siena.

Burne-Jones first conceived the idea for The Car of Lovein 1871 or 1872, but work on the large painting in the V&A did not begin until the early 1890s. It was left incomplete at Burne-Jones's death in 1898.

One large design (339.1 x 211.2 cm) in pastel and charcoal for The Car of Loveis in the Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand (museum number 1924/5/1; see exhibition catalogue: Auckland City Art Gallery, British Taste in the Nineteenth Century,May 1962, no.10, p.9). This design was presented to Auckland Art Gallery in 1924 by Viscount Leverhulme. There are also three black chalk figure studies for the painting in Auckland (museum numbers 1956/22/1; 1956/22/2; 1956/22/3).

An earlier design, probably the sketch referred to in Memorials,pp. 191-2, as 'a black rough charcoal thing done in a heat one evening', is in Falmouth Art Gallery (charcoal on paper stuck to canvas, 162 x 89cm, FAMAG: 1923.19; see image in object file). This design shows Burne-Jones's original concept of the composition, in which the procession takes place in a narrow gorge, with towering rocks on either side and a glimpse of the sea in the background. The streets of medieval Siena replaced this setting in the final composition.

Two head studies for The Car of Loveare in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (1898P48 (1880) and 1898P49 (1875)).

Another head study, signed 'E.B.J.', dated 1895, and inscribed (apparently by the artist) 'for the CAR of LOVE' was offered for sale at TEFAF Maastricht and the Salon du Dessin in Paris in 2013. Photographs and correspondence in V&A object file.

Descriptive line

Oil painting (unfinished), 'The Car of Love (Love's Wayfaring)', Edward Coley Burne-Jones, ca. 1891-1898

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

W. Graham Robertson, Time Was: the reminiscences of W. Graham Robertson, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1931, p.278
Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, London and New York: the Macmillan Company, 1904, vol. 2, pp. 191-2
Philip Burne-Jones, 'Notes on some unfinished works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones', Magazine of Art, vol. XXIV, 1900, pp.159-167 (p.166)
John Christian and Stephen Wildman, Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian artist-dreamer, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, pp.143, 145, 148, 266


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Romantic love; Car; Slavery; Bondage; Chariots (carriages); Love




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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