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Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Morning of the Resurrection


Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt 1833–1898
The Morning of the Resurrection
1886
Oil paint on wood
845 x 1511 mm
Tate Britain, London

Mary Magdalene visits  the empty tomb, where she encounters the resurrected Christ, accompanied by angels. 

When the painting was first exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in London it was accompanied by the following:
"St John Chapter XX, v 14, "And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus."
Edward Burne-Jones was close to a group in London called The Souls which  included many of the most distinguished English politicians and intellectuals.

One of them was Alfred Lyttelton whose first wife was Octavia Laura, daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Baronet. 

Lyttleton married Laura in 1885. She died in 1886 on the day before Easter within days of giving birth to their only child, a son

Burne-Jones inscribed a personal memorial or 'oblation' to her in the lower left-hand corner of the painting

His widow, Lady Georgiana Burne-Jones (1840-1920) wrote in her Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (1906 edition, Volume II pages 166 - 7):
"On Easter Eve this much-loved creature {Laura] died.  
" It is the sorrowfullest ending," he wrote, "poor, bright,  sweet little thing. I dread knowing any more of people, or watching in a stupid unhelpful way the calamities that rain upon them." And, a few weeks later, " I have no clear  idea of a memorial to that little darling, but I should like  it. 
I like praise of the dead, and keeping Saints' days and  holy days for them. I did make one very little oblation  which I made so obscure that no one has discovered it it is on the left-hand corner of the Resurrection picture at  the Grosvenor only the words
" In Memoriam L. L. Easter 1886.'" 
I didn't want it to be obtrusive and am glad  no one has seen it. And I have schemed a memorial tablet  for her if it is ever needed; perhaps I may carry it out and  set it up at home, for we all loved her dearly."  
He did make a tablet, employing in its execution a kind of material and workmanship quite new to him. It was a  bas-relief in gesso : " durable as granite and enduring till the  Judgment Day," 
He described it. 
"It is eight feet high, and  is an effigy of a peacock, which is the symbol of the Resurrection, standing upon a laurel- tree and the laurel grows out of the tomb and bursts through the sides of the tomb with  a determination to go on living, and refusing to be dead." 
This was left pure white and put up in a church, but  for ourselves a cast was made which Edward painted in full, deep colour, and we kept it in the entrance hall at  the Grange. 
There was much beautiful lettering on it, beginning with the words Non est hic, sed surrexit, and below was a Latin inscription made by Dean Church, one of the  many who had loved her.