Not currently on display at the V&A

Tree of Life

Design
1888 (made)
Artist/Maker

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour and gouache
Brief Description
Tree of Life: Study for American Episcopal Church mosaics by Edward Burne-Jones, 1888.
Dimensions
  • Height: 181cm
  • Width: 242cm
  • Frame dimensions height: 201cm
  • Frame dimensions width: 262cm
  • Frame dimensions depth: 5.5cm
Style
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • Livingstone, Karen & Parry, Linda (eds.), International Arts and Crafts, London : V&A Publications, 2005no. 2.13
  • 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, 2010no.142
  • Harrison, Colin, Newall, Christopher and Spadoni, Claudio, The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy Oxford : Ashmolean, 2010no.142
Collection
Accession Number
584-1898

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record createdJanuary 8, 2004
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