The Feast of Peleus thumbnail 1
The Feast of Peleus thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Stair M

The Feast of Peleus

Oil Painting
1881-1898 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This unfinished painting was part of Burne-Jones's never-completed scheme to represent the history of the Fall of Troy. The scheme was conceived as a triptych with a predella below, in which this painting would have been the central image. It shows the wedding celebrations of Peleus, King of Thessaly. All the gods and goddesses had been invited except for Discord, the evil-looking figure to the viewer's right, who arrived unexpectedly. She gave to Mercury, shown half-kneeling from behind, an apple inscribed 'For the Fairest'. At the other end of the table are Venus, Minerva and Juno, all of whom think this prize is for them.

The composition was laid out to Burne-Jones's design by his assistants and subsequently over-painted by the master. Classical subjects like this gave Burne-Jones a chance to paint the nude and especially to show his fascination with Michelangelo. The central figure of Jove is effectively a quotation of the Christ from Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil on canvas entitled 'The Feast of Peleus' by Edward Burne-Jones. Great Britain, 1881-1898.
Physical Description
Long oil painting showing The Feast of Peleus, classical figures at table, unfinished.
Dimensions
  • Height: 149.5cm
  • Width: 442.6cm
  • Frame dimensions height: 164.5cm
  • Frame dimensions width: 458cm
  • Frame dimensions depth: 12.5cm
Styles
Gallery Label
This unfinished painting shows the wedding feast of Peleus, King of Thessaly, and the sea-goddess Thetis, which was attended by the Olympian gods. Zeus sits centrally at the table. Only Eris, the goddess of Discord, was not invited, and her unexpected appearance (at the far right here) causes evident dismay among the guests. Eris went on to provoke a quarrel at the feast which eventually led to the Trojan War.
Credit line
Given by Sir Philip Burne-Jones and Mrs J. W. Mackail, children of the artist
Object history
Given by Sir Philip Burne-Jones and Mrs J. W. Mackail, 1920



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



In the summer of 1870 Burne-Jones started to plan one of his most ambitious works, a complex triptych illustrating scenes from the story of Troy. The large work in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The Story of Troy, or The Troy Triptych, is probably an unfinished study for a larger work which was planned but never carried out. The central panel of the triptych represents the Judgement of Paris; the left-hand panel shows Helen carried off by Paris to Troy under the protection of Venus; and the right-hand panel shows the denouement of the story: Helen captive in burning Troy as the city is besieged and sacked by the Greeks. Beneath the triptych is a predella, the central part of which represents the feast of Peleus, at whose wedding to Thetis the story of Troy began. One each side of the central part of the predella are symbolic representations of Venus Concordia and Venus Discordia. Four intermediate panels eleborate on the theme of Amor Vincit Omnia: Fortune; Fame overthrowing Fortune; Oblivion conquering Fame; and Love subduing Oblivion.



Each element of the Troy Triptych was taken further in a variety of ways. The subjects represented on the predella eventually gave rise to the most fully completed individual oil paintings: The Feast of Peleus (1872-81), The Wheel of Fortune (1875-83), and the pair of canvases Venus Concordia and Venus Discordia (taken up in the 1890s but left unfinished at Burne-Jones's death in 1898).



The principal version of The Feast of Peleus is also in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. At 36.9 x 109.9cm, it is very much smaller than the version in the V&A. Begun in 1872, the Birmingham painting was largely complete by 1873, although only finished in 1881 in preparation for inclusion in a Grosvenor Gallery exhibition the following year.



The V&A's version of the painting was begun in 1881 (possibly because Burne-Jones may initally have intended to display a version on a more impressive scale at the Grosvenor Gallery); however, it was not finished and remained incomplete at the artist's death.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This unfinished painting was part of Burne-Jones's never-completed scheme to represent the history of the Fall of Troy. The scheme was conceived as a triptych with a predella below, in which this painting would have been the central image. It shows the wedding celebrations of Peleus, King of Thessaly. All the gods and goddesses had been invited except for Discord, the evil-looking figure to the viewer's right, who arrived unexpectedly. She gave to Mercury, shown half-kneeling from behind, an apple inscribed 'For the Fairest'. At the other end of the table are Venus, Minerva and Juno, all of whom think this prize is for them.



The composition was laid out to Burne-Jones's design by his assistants and subsequently over-painted by the master. Classical subjects like this gave Burne-Jones a chance to paint the nude and especially to show his fascination with Michelangelo. The central figure of Jove is effectively a quotation of the Christ from Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
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
  • John Christian and Stephen Wildman, Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, pp. 152-153.
Collection
Accession Number
P.108-1920

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record createdJanuary 6, 2004
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