Merlin and Nimue thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS , Shelf 63, Case R, Box R

Merlin and Nimue

Watercolour
1861 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, a prose translation of the medieval French poem, was first printed in 1485. It became the main source in English of the legends surrounding King Arthur. Burne-Jones first came across this text in a Birmingham bookshop in 1855 and thereafter returned again and again to Arthurian subjects. Here the wizard Merlin has fallen in love with 'a lady of the lake', Nimue, whom he taught some magic secrets. She tired of him and lured him under a rock, from which even his magic could not effect an escape. Burne-Jones shows the stone in the form of a gravestone, which rises under the spell that Nimue incants from her magic book, drawing Merlin inexorably towards the gaping tomb that awaits him. The connection with the written source is made explicit by a quotation from Book IV inscribed on the frame, 'so by her subtle craft and working she made Merlin to go under that stone'. Fanny Cornforth modelled the figure of Nimue.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour and bodycolour
Brief Description
Watercolour of Merlin and Nimue by Edward Burne-Jones, England, 1861.
Physical Description
A full length man and woman, both in flowing reddish robes and facing left in a landscape. The woman, who has long fair hair is to the viewer's left and has a volume in her hands.To the right are large slabs of stone. The man is behind her. He wears a headdress and has a small black dog at his feet.
Dimensions
  • Framed height: 94.2cm
  • Framed width: 81.5cm
  • Height: 64.2cm
  • Width: 52.1cm
  • Frame depth: 4.1cm
Style
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceSir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur
Summary
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, a prose translation of the medieval French poem, was first printed in 1485. It became the main source in English of the legends surrounding King Arthur. Burne-Jones first came across this text in a Birmingham bookshop in 1855 and thereafter returned again and again to Arthurian subjects. Here the wizard Merlin has fallen in love with 'a lady of the lake', Nimue, whom he taught some magic secrets. She tired of him and lured him under a rock, from which even his magic could not effect an escape. Burne-Jones shows the stone in the form of a gravestone, which rises under the spell that Nimue incants from her magic book, drawing Merlin inexorably towards the gaping tomb that awaits him. The connection with the written source is made explicit by a quotation from Book IV inscribed on the frame, 'so by her subtle craft and working she made Merlin to go under that stone'. Fanny Cornforth modelled the figure of Nimue.
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
  • Le Roi Arthur. Une légende en devenir Rennes: Les Champes Libres, 2008. ISBN: 978-2-7572-0215-9.
  • 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
Collection
Accession Number
257-1896

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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