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Watercolour - Merlin and Nimue

Merlin and Nimue

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1861 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and bodycolour

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

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.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1861 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and bodycolour


Height: 94.2 cm framed, Width: 81.5 cm framed, Height: 64.2 cm, Width: 52.1 cm, Depth: 4.1 cm frame

Descriptive line

Watercolour of Merlin and Nimue by Edward Burne-Jones, England, 1861.

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

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


Watercolour; Ink



Subjects depicted

Costume; Landscape




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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