The Garden of the Hesperides 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 93, Case R, Box L

The Garden of the Hesperides

Painting
1882 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This represents the classical myth of the three daughters of Hesperus, who tended the dragon of Ladon and guarded the golden apples of Hera. However, Burne-Jones has reduced the number of daughters to two, apparently in the interests of symmetry. It provides an example of Burne-Jones's interest in classical form, especially in the treatment of the background and in the shapes of the ewer and harp. The scene is represented in low relief. Platinum, a white metal, was used in addition to the more common gold leaf in the gilding. The picture was made as an overmantel for a cottage in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
tempera & gilt on gesso on panel
Brief Description
The Garden of the Hesperides, Coloured and gilded gesso on panel, Edward Burne-Jones, 1880- 1881, England
Physical Description
Long panel, brightly coloured and gilded gesso, portraying The Garden of Hesperides
Dimensions
  • Including frame height: 68.5cm
  • Including frame width: 164cm
  • Sight size height: 66cm
  • Sight size width: 157cm
Frame measured by Nicola Costares 10/05/12: 778 x 1683 x 105 mm.
Style
Credit line
Given by Miss Kate Lewis
Object history
Provenance: Miss Katherine Lewis, by whom presented to the Museum (Dept of Cirulation) in 1953, transferred to the Department of Paintings in 1972.



Historical significance:



Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) 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.



In classical mythology, the garden of the Hesperides was Hera’s orchard in the west. There the apple tree, grown out of the fruited branch given to Hera by the Titan Gaia as a wedding present, grew and bore golden fruit. The Hesperides were three daughters of Hesperius (evening) and Atlas, whose duties were to be the guardians of the immortality-giving golden apples and to tend to the dragon, Ladon, who was also a protector of Hera’s fruit. The eleventh labour of Heracles (also known as Hercules) was to steal the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides, a feat he succeeded either by overcoming Ladon or by tricking Atlas to bring him the apples, depending on different versions of the myth. This painting represents the scene prior to the invasion of Heracles.



The garden of the Hesperides interested Burne-Jones over a period of time and he made more than one composition of the subject. He made his first designs for a composition of the Hesperides subject in connection with the plan to illustrate Morris’s The Earthly Paradise in an illustrated book in the late 1860s. This was not carried out but some drawings remain (three drawings of ‘feeding the serpent’ exist in the Witt Library of the Courtauld Institute in London). Another composition of the garden in its peaceful state was executed in The Garden of the Hesperides (1869-73; Hamburger Kunsthalle), and another of the same composition and title (1877; private collection) where the three Hesperides dance around the tree with Ladon sinuously coiled around it. In the V&A’s painting The Garden of the Hesperides (1882) Burne-Jones has reduced the number of daughters to two, apparently in the interests of symmetry. It provides an example of his interest in classical form, especially in the treatment of the background and in the shapes of the ewer and harp. The scene is represented in low relief. Platinum, a white metal, was used in addition to the more common gold leaf in the gilding.



The picture was made as an overmantel to go above the fireplace in the dining room of Ashley Cottage in Walton-on-Thames for Sir George Lewis and his wife, Elizabeth. The dining room in which it was installed featured walls that were covered in blue linen that had been dyed by William Morris. The fact that one of the predominent colours in the panel is blue, the Hesperides’ dresses being of a deep blue and the dragon being of a lighter hue, suggests that there was an overall decorative theme for this room.



The same composition with a few minor differences was executed in painted gesso relief on the side of a cassone in 1888 by an assistant of Burne-Jones (Birmingham City Art Gallery).



This scene has obvious parallels with biblical imagery of the Garden of Eden. It has been suggested that this subject was the source of the idea that the apple was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge; in the Bible itself the fruit is never explicitly identified.

Subjects depicted
Summary
This represents the classical myth of the three daughters of Hesperus, who tended the dragon of Ladon and guarded the golden apples of Hera. However, Burne-Jones has reduced the number of daughters to two, apparently in the interests of symmetry. It provides an example of Burne-Jones's interest in classical form, especially in the treatment of the background and in the shapes of the ewer and harp. The scene is represented in low relief. Platinum, a white metal, was used in addition to the more common gold leaf in the gilding. The picture was made as an overmantel for a cottage in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
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
  • Exhibition of Victorian & Edwardian Decorative Arts; Catalogue, London, H.M. Stationery Office, 1952no.79
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.525-1953

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record createdJanuary 6, 2004
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