Sunday, February 28, 2010

Edward Burne-Jones at Museo de Arte de Ponce

I am an avid adherent of serendipity and am always thrilled when it takes place in my own life. This past week, I had a wonderful moment--more like a half hour--of serendipity when I visited the Frist Center here in Nashville. The Frist is an exhibition museum, featuring two to three traveling exhibits at a time. The most recent just opened last weekend, Masterpieces of European Painting from Museo de Arte de Ponce. Imagine my delight when I learned it included three Briar Rose paintings by Edward Burne-Jones.

I never expected to see these paintings in person seeing as how they are usually in the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is not on the top of my dream vacation spots--nothing against it, there are just other places I want to see more. And up until this week, I didn't know that these three paintings were even there, usually.

They were fittingly displayed side-by-side on the last wall of the last room of the exhibit. I had already had a preview since I had been upstairs to see the Greek exhibit first. But by the time I had explored the entire exhibit and found some other beautiful pieces, I was ready to visit with these three paintings for a good fifteen minutes. I stood in front and studied them. I stood back and observed them. I sat on the long bench and enjoyed the entire effect of all three.

I realized these were not the ones I have seen the most often on my own site and the web. I grew more and more curious, too. I am still investigating all of the many Burne-Jones Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose paintings. There is not enough information to help through the sources I've investigated. Some of it is even wrong, imagine that. But I do know for a surety that these three paintings are from earlier in Burne-Jones' career, painted in 1871.

I also know they are exquisite. From across the room, the first impression is of three tapestries thanks to the bright pink briar roses floating throughout all three paintings. When one approaches them, you can see details that are nearly invisible if not completely so in the reproductions. The horror, awe and fear on the Prince's face are very real. A ruby ring, very bright, shines on the king's finger. The strings on the lute in the bottom right hand corner of the Sleeping Beauty panel are all snapped and tangled. One also notices the plant with roses not in bloom yet on the right edge of the king's panel, foreshadowing what will be seen in the next one with Briar Rose.

And so, without further ado, the Briar Rose panels by Edward Burne-Jones, currently on exhibit in Nashville, but usually only found in Puerto Rico. Look carefully, for they are not the ones most often seen around the web, especially the king's court one. These are softer focus and more romantic than the later panels he painted of the same subject.

Tip: If you click on the image, you can see a slightly larger and fuller version since Blogger cuts off the right edge to size them for this blog template.

The Prince Enters the Woods, 1871

The King and His Court, 1871 (I didn't find this one represented anywhere on the web although there are a few others by Burne-Jones of similar composition. This one is my favorite because for one thing the king is dressed in bright red.)

The Sleeping Beauty, 1871

You may compare these with the ones I have posted on SurLaLune.


  1. Hey, I've been to Puerto Rico and seen the Ponce collection. It's amazing, even though I haven't seen this picture. Anyways, thanks for sharing this.

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  2. Just wanted to let you know about this exhibition which is on near me in the UK
    I'm hoping to get to see it in the next week or so - will let you know what it's like!