Dorigen of Bretagne longing for the safe return of her husband

Watercolour
1871 (painted)
Dorigen of Bretagne longing for the safe return of her husband thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This subject is derived from Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Franklin's Tale' from The Canterbury Tales. It demonstrates Burne-Jones's interest in medieval subjects. Dorigen is shown longing for her husband's return but fearful that he will be wrecked at the harbour's mouth. The reunion that she so desires is alluded to in the ghostly figures that decorate her portable organ. Since it can be played only when the bellows are pumped by someone else, this emphasises her loneliness. Her pose with arms outstretched, opening the shutters onto the view of the sea churning around the rocks, suggests also her sense of hopelessness.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Brief Description
Watercolour (bodycolour) of Dorigen of Bretagne longing for the safe return of her husband by Edward Burne-Jones, 1871.
Physical Description
A women seen mainly from the back but head in right profile and arms outstretched looks out to a sea full of rocks. To her left is a seat and a convex mirror. To her right and on the ground, a stack of books and a portable organ.
Dimensions
  • Framed height: 52.2cm
  • Framed width: 63cm
  • Height: 26.7cm
  • Width: 37.4cm
Style
Gallery Label
Burne-Jones and his Pre-Raphaelite associates were fascinated by medieval literature. This illustration to Chaucer's Franklin's Tale shows Dorigen of Bretagne watching for the return of her husband's boat across the treacherous sea. Chaucer describes how Dorigen falls to her knees because she is trembling with fear; Burne-Jones uses this posture to emphasise her watchfulness in an unusually elongated composition.(March 2008)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
Object history
Purchased, possibly directly from the artist, by Constantine Alexander Ionides before November 1881, for £200 (his inventory, private collection). Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceChaucer's The Canterbury Tales (The Franklin's Tale)
Summary
This subject is derived from Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Franklin's Tale' from The Canterbury Tales. It demonstrates Burne-Jones's interest in medieval subjects. Dorigen is shown longing for her husband's return but fearful that he will be wrecked at the harbour's mouth. The reunion that she so desires is alluded to in the ghostly figures that decorate her portable organ. Since it can be played only when the bellows are pumped by someone else, this emphasises her loneliness. Her pose with arms outstretched, opening the shutters onto the view of the sea churning around the rocks, suggests also her sense of hopelessness.
Bibliographic References
  • Fagence Cooper, Suzanne, Pre Raphaelite Art in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, V&A Publications, 2003. 176p., ill. ISBN I 85177 393 2
  • Evans, Mark et al. Vikutoria & Arubāto Bijutsukan-zō : eikoku romanshugi kaigaten = The Romantic tradition in British painting, 1800-1950 : masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Japan : Brain Trust, 2002
  • Coombs, Katherine British watercolours : 1750-1950 . London: V&A Publications, 2012p.101, pl.91
Collection
Accession Number
CAI.10

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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