Featured Artworks – The Legend of Briar Rose – Edward Burne-Jones


Edward Burne-Jones

The Legend of Briar Rose is the title of a series of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones which were completed between 1885 and 1890. The four original paintings – The Briar Wood, The Council Chamber, The Garden Court and The Rose Bower – and an additional ten adjoining panels, are located at Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, England.

The four major panels were first exhibited at Agnew’s Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1890. They were acquired by Alexander Henderson, later to become the Lord Faringdon, for Buscot Park. When Burne-Jones visited the house and saw the paintings in their new setting he decided to extend the frames of each of the four paintings and fill in the gaps with joining panels which continued the rose motif from the main paintings. Each major panel measures 49 by 98¼ inches but the ten joining panels vary in width.

The paintings depict a moment in the story of Sleeping Beauty, the title of the series coming from the version presented by the Brothers Grimm in their collection of 1812. The paintings do not tell a sequential story but record the same moment in each location.

The Briar Wood


The painting depicts the discovery of the sleeping soldiers by a Knight. In their slumber they have become completed entwined by the barbed thorns of the Briar rose.

Running beneath each of the major panels is an inscription of a poem by William Morris, under The Briar Wood the inscription reads:

“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 Council Chamber


The painting shows the scene in the Council chamber. The members of the council sleep, as does the King who is slumped on his throne. Under the draped curtains and through the window further soldiers can be seen sleeping.

Under The Council Chamber, the inscription reads:

“The threat of war, the hope of peace,
The Kingdoms peril and increase
Sleep on, and bide the latter day
When Fate shall take her chain away.”

The Garden Court


The painting shows the weavers having fallen asleep at their loom. The walls of the castle form the backdrop to the painting as do arches of roses.

Under The Garden Court, the inscription reads:

“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 Rose Bower


The sleeping beauty lies on her bed surrounded by her slumbering attendants. The rose is seen encircling the drapery in the background

Under The Rose Bower, the inscription reads:

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

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One Response to Featured Artworks – The Legend of Briar Rose – Edward Burne-Jones

  1. alfy says:

    Buscot Park is well worth a visit, and particularly the galleries where the Burne-Jones works are exhibited. Visitors are simultaneously impressed and puzzled by the paintings. They do not relate a narrative, as the commentary says, and although most people are broadly familiar with the Sleeping Beauty legend, the details of the Grimm re-telling are unfamiliar. The exhibition area is quite different from most art galleries, in that it is almost a “secret corner”, and so very comfortable and cosy that one might readily drop off to sleep like the maidens and knights in the paintings.

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