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Design - Tree of Life

Tree of Life

  • Object:


  • Date:

    1888 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and gouache

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This watercolour represents one of several large-scale decorations that Burne-Jones undertook for St Paul's Within-the-Walls, the American Episcopal Church in Rome. It shows the design fitted into a lobed space above the second chancel arch. Its subject is Christ crucified before a Tree of Life, the latter symbolising the eternal life that he died to give. Unusually, Christ is flanked by Adam and Eve rather than the traditional figures of St John and the Virgin Mary. The sheaves of corn allude to Adam's curse to till the fields. The thorns of the brier rose, juxtaposed with the lilies, symbolic of purity, refer to Eve's sinfulness. The Latin inscription means, 'you shall have affliction in the world, but have faith, for I have overcome the world'. The decoration was executed in mosaic, a medium much used in 5th- and 6th-century Byzantine decorations. Burne-Jones greatly admired their simplified forms.


1888 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and gouache


Height: 181 cm, Width: 242 cm, Height: 201 cm frame dimensions, Width: 262 cm frame dimensions, Depth: 5.5 cm frame dimensions, :

Descriptive line

Tree of Life: Study for American Episcopal Church mosaics by Edward Burne-Jones, 1888.

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

Livingston, Karen and Parry, Linda, eds International Arts and Crafts. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2005. 368 p., ill. ISBN 1851774459.
Harrison, Colin, Newall, Christopher and Spadoni, Claudio, i Preraffaelliti. il sogno del'400 italiano da Beato Angelico a Perugino da Rossetti a Burne-Jones Milano: Silvana Editorale Spa, Cinisello Balsamo, 2010
Harrison, Colin, Newall, Christopher and Spadoni, Claudio, <1>The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy Oxford : Ashmolean, 2010

Subjects depicted



Designs; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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