DREAMS & ART: Edward Burne-Jones and Sleeping Beauty


“I meant to depict a beautiful dream…in a light better than any light that ever shone…in a land no one can remember. . .”                            

Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones painted scenes of medieval romance including a series depicting knights and ladies dreaming about each other.

“All days are nights to see till I see thee. 
And nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.”         

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43

Once while traveling to Rome by train, Burne-Jones fell asleep and dreamed so vividly of the nine muses on Mt. Helicon he felt compelled to paint them the moment he arrived at his destination.

In the late 1800’s, Edward Burne-Jones created a series of paintings titled “The Legend of Briar Rose,” inspired by the classic fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty.”  Burne-Jones’ friend, the poet William Morris, composed verses to accompany each of the paintings. As we all know, in this famous tale Sleeping Beauty and her female attendants fall into deep slumber after Beauty pricks her finger on a magical spindle.

Here lies the hoarded love the key
To all the treasure that shall be.
Come, fated hand, the gift to take
And smite the sleeping world awake.



   The Rose Bower

The fateful slumber floats and flows
About the tangle of the rose.
But lo the fated hand and heart
To rend the slumberous curse apart.


   The Briar Wood 

The threat of war, the hope of peace
The Kingdom’s peril and increase.
Sleep on, and bide the latter day
When fate shall take her chains away.


    The Council Chamber

The maiden pleasance of the land
Knoweth no stir of voice or hand,
No cup the sleeping waters fill,
The restless shuttle lieth still.


  The Garden Court

The themes of the Troubadours’ songs of the 11th through the 13th centuries also focused on medieval chivalry and courtly love. This mixed-gender group of poets and musicians later became known as the Traveling Minstrels because they traveled widely throughout southern Europe sharing their songs of love and adventure.

Love the key
To all the treasure that shall be.
Come, fated hand, the gift to take
And smite the sleeping world awake.

“Minstrels in the Hall”  by Ritchie Blackmore

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1833-1898

First Painting:  “Psyche” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

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