When you’ve been immersed in a massive, intricately detailed biography, you feel a sense of loss at its conclusion. You bid farewell not only to the book’s specific subject, but to the cast of characters that enlivened the story, and in many cases, to an entire era. This happened to me with Candace Millard’s riveting Destiny of the Republic, with Donald Worster’s lovely homage to John Muir, A Passion for Nature, and most recently with Robert K. Massie’s magisterial biography of Catherine the Great.
Last night I finished reading The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination. Fiona MacCarthy’s sweeping depiction of a now vanished world has for weeks held me in its thrall. I said good-bye with a heavy heart.
One of the many gifts given me by this book has been an insight into the wellsprings of Edward Burne-Jones’s unique and inimitable genius. Early in his creative life, he fell under the spell of the great artists of Europe’s Middle Ages, especially those who flourished in Italy:
Te next two works, by Luca Signorelli, are from the fresco cycle in the San Brizio Chapel of the Orvieto Cathedral:
The following two works are illustrations of the life of St.Ursula, by Vittore Carpaccio:
Below are two detailed views of the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, by Michelangelo:
These works were specifically commended to Burne-Jones by his mentor and friend, the great art historian John Ruskin. It is easy to see how Edward Burne-Jones came to hold beauty as a value worthy of the highest esteem. (For more on these great painters, I recommend the Web Gallery of Art.)
I’ve already done one post on the life and work of Edward Burne-Jones. There is more to come – and more about other riches contained within the pages of The Last Pre-Raphaelite.
As a result of this recent reading, my fascination with Victorian Britain has been reawakened. I’ve written before of the pleasure I derived from listening to The Teaching Company’s course by that name, as presented by Professor Patrick Allitt. In the past, I’ve borrowed this item from the library. Now, however, I have purchased these fine lectures and the richly informative material that comes with them. Once again I am immersed in all things Victorian, starting with the Queen herself!