(To be continued next post, BWA- Ha-ha...)
The genesis of this cartoon was seeing an illustration on the cover of the British Literary Review. There was an article inside about Fiona MacCarthy's recent biography about Edward Burne-Jones, The Last Pre-Raphaelite. (Highly recommended!) and the cover illustration showed the painter flanked by three lovely angels (angels being one of Ned's favorite subjects). I joked online that they were "Ned's Angels" and they should start a crime-fighting team.
different points of time, most notoriously Maria. And oh, that's quite a story..
|Ned's cartoon of himself dazzled by his new model, Maria Zambaco, |
and looking slightly afraid. (As he should be. Read on.)
Ned, as I've written before, had a eye for pretty girls. But he had been a good husband and father until
it all seemed to roll out of control when he inadvertently fell in love with one of his models.
|Maria, painted by Rossetti.|
Maria Zambaco was a divorced sculptor
of Greek descent and was very much
unlike any other woman Ned had
ever come across before.
She was basically a force of nature
who had some trouble taking "no" as an
answer when Ned finally told her he
wanted to end the affair and return
to his wife, Georgie.
|Maria as Ned saw her, wild and vulnerable.|
The famous tale is that he and Maria went
walking one foggy night by the canal
and Maria had two bottles of laudanum
ready for a double suicide.
When Ned said he wasn't prepared
to die with her, she ran for the river
to throw herself in. Ned tackled her to the ground
to stop her and they were wrestling
with each other when the police showed up
and Maria's cousin appeared
(he may have been following the couple at a distance)
to escort the frantic woman off.
However, the end of the affair led to some of the most amazing and controversial paintings of Burne-Jones' career-- and finally he was out of the shadow of his mentor, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and best friend William Morris. He would finally become a celebrated and successful artist in his own right, with his own individual, dreamy and very recognizable style.
|Phyllis and Demophoon.|
This large gouache painting caused a scandal.
When the Watercolour Society refused to show it,
Burne-Jones resigned from the Society.
|The Depths of the Sea.|
One of the many Burne-Jones paintings
that feature (sometimes unintentionally)
But there was a definite "femme fatale" theme that was showing up in Ned's art, alongside his constant androgynous angels and swooning maidens.
Since the the Maria Zambaco affair, it seemed some sort of amorous door had been opened for the formerly shy painter who became a relentlessly platonic flirt. He wrote increasingly adoring letters to young female friends. Though he remained with his loyal wife Georgie (their relationship was obviously never the same and possibly why Georgie sought comfort in the company of her husband's best friend, William Morris, who was going through a similar experience), Ned acted like a knight in the throes of courtly love, knowing he would never have these women he poured out his passions to in letters but feeling compelled to write them all the same.
Ned pretty much fell in love on a daily basis.
|Love Among the Ruins|
The original gouache version of this was famously,
well, ruined when a museum worker tried to clean it,
not realizing it wasn't done in oils.
This is the more waterproof second version done in oils.
But as a big fan of Georgie, I am also very sorry for her as well. Ned relied on her as his manager: she handled all his money, his commissions, his guests, the press, etc. She created the ideal environment in which he could essentially live in his dream world and work.
(However, she and William will have their moment in an upcoming cartoon.)
Coming up next: A Pre-Raphaelite Supervillain! And the conclusion of "Ned's Angels".