Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A. (Birmingham 1833-1898 London)
Pilgrim at the Gate of Idleness, 1884
Oil on canvas, 38 x 51½ inches (96 x 131 mm)
Signed with initials and dated 1884
Literature: Fernand Khnopff, “In Memoriam: Tribute from Belgium”, Magazine of Art, 1898, repr. P. 524 (William Connal collection); Malcom Bell, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1895, pp. 62, 65, 68; Robert Howard Russell, Pictures of Romance and Wonder, 1902 repr. With related poetic text; Fortunée de Lisle, Burne-Jones, 1904, pp. 114-116; Martin Harrison and Bill Waters, Burne-Jones, 1973, p. 138
Exhibited: Glasgow, International Exhibition, 1888, no. 31; London, New Gallery, 1893, no. 64; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures, 1893, no. 250
Acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
The following verse written by William Morris is a poetic accompaniment to the painting:
Lo, idleness opes the gate, Where through the wandering man awaits, So many fair and gallant shows, Born of the Romance of the Rose
This painting and its companion, The Heart of the Rose, together with the larger painting Love leading the Pilgrim (Tate Gallery), form a trilogy on romantic theme loosely based on parts of Claucer’s poem Romaunt of the Rose. In about 1872 Burne-Jones and William Morris collaborated on designs for a wall hanging inspired by the poem, with Burn-Jones supplying the figures and Morris the briar background. The narrative sequence, consisting of many scenes, was embroidered by the wife and daughter of Sir Lothian Bell, 1st Baronet, an industrialist, and hung as a frieze in the dining room in his newly-built house in Yorkshire, Rounton Grange. The embroideries, which date from 1874-1882, are now in the William Morris Museum, Walthamstow. Both the present painting, dated 1884, and its companion, dated 1889, are based on the artist’s original designs for the wall-hanging; indeed The Pilgrim at the Gate of Idleness is very close in composition to the corresponding section of the embroidery.
The theme of Romaunt of the Rose occupied Burn-Jones intermittently for over twenty years. The present painting was begun in 1874 and substantially finished in 1884. The Heart of the Rose, created as a pendant, was begun in 1889. Both paintings remained in the studio and were taken up again by the artist in1892, following a period of illness, and completed in time for the New Gallery exhibition in 1893. Love Leading the Pilgrim (Tate Gallery), the largest of the group, was begun in 1877 and finally completed in 1897, the date of its exhibition at the New Gallery.