Flora by Sir Edward Burne Jones and William Morris, circa 1885.  The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England. 

The quotation by William Morris reads:

I am the handmaid of the earth,
I broider fair her glorious gown,
And deck her on her days of mirth
With many a garland of renown.

And while Earth’s little ones are fain
And play about the Mother’s hem
I scatter every gift I gain
From sun and wind to gladden them.


Sir Edward Burne-Jones, “The Days of Creation“,  considered one of Burne-Jones’ greatest works.

<<In 1872, he began work on the paintings, a gouache watercolor with shell gold and platinum paint on linen panels more than twice the size of the pencil drawings. He worked on the paintings off and on through 1876. Once completed, the panels were framed in a huge Renaissance revival contraption designed by Burke-Jones specifically to hold all six Days.

In May of 1877, Edward Burne-Jones exhibited The Days of Creation painting in his comeback show at Grosvenor Gallery in London. It was a sensation. Oscar Wilde went to the Grosvenor Gallery show, describing his visit in detail in an article for Dublin University Magazine (the essay is included in his book of collected writings, Miscellanies). He critiqued works on display by the likes of Sir John Everett Millais and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema before lingering on Burne-Jones’ triumphant return withThe Days of Creation, The Beguiling of Merlin, and the Mirror of Venus. Here’s his description of The Days of Creation:

“The next picture is divided into six compartments, each representing a day in the Creation of the World, under the symbol of an angel holding a crystal globe, within which is shown the work of a day. In the first compartment stands the lonely angel of the First Day, and within the crystal ball Light is being separated from Darkness. In the fourth compartment are four angels, and the crystal glows like a heated opal, for within it the creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars is passing; the number of the angels increases, and the colours grow more vivid till we reach the sixth compartment, which shines afar off like a rainbow. Within it are the six angels of the Creation, each holding its crystal ball; and within the crystal of the sixth angel one can see Adam’s strong brown limbs and hero form, and the pale, beautiful body of Eve. At the feet also of these six winged messengers of the Creator is sitting the angel of the Seventh Day, who on a harp of gold is singing the glories of that coming day which we have not yet seen. The faces of the angels are pale and oval-shaped, in their eyes is the light of Wisdom and Love, and their lips seem as if they would speak to us; and strength and beauty are in their wings. They stand with naked feet, some on shell-strewn sands whereon tide has never washed nor storm broken, others it seems on pools of water, others on strange flowers; and their hair is like the bright glory round a saint’s head.”

The painting went through various private hands until its last owner, Grenville Winthrop, bequeathed it to Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum in 1943. The series remained on display in Cambridge for the next 47 years. It was on loan in a dining room in Dunster House at Harvard University in 1970 when the fourth panel was stolen. It is still missing today. The surviving five panels are still at the Fogg Art Museum

That makes series of pencil drawings even more important.They’re complete and framed together as Burne-Jones’ intended.>>

Note: The paintings are arranged chronologically, from first to sixth day. On the fourth day you can see the artwork and the corresponding stolen pencil drawing which is still preserved.  In the last image you can see the six paintings together. 

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Per quadro intendo un bel sogno romantico di qualcosa che non è mai esistito e mai esisterà, in una luce più bella di tutte quelle che abbiano mai brillato, in un luogo che nessuno può definire o ricordare, soltanto desiderare.
—  Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones