King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid
By Sir Edward Oley Burne-Jones

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid
By Sir Edward Oley Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
In the Tate Gallery, London

In this picture, considered by many critics to be his finest work, the painter has realised on canvas an immortal story which touches the heart as much as the imagination. Burne-Jones was well qualified to illustrate the charming legend which furnishes the scene depicted. He painted ideal people and created a world of his own for them. He invested his subject with all the wealth of a fertile imagination, which made him unique among the painters of his generation. These qualities are well shown in the present painting. The figure of the beggar maid expresses in a marvellous manner the description given in Tennyson's poem:

"As shines the moon in clouded skies.
She in her poor attire was seen.
One praised her ankles, one her eyes,
One her dark hair and lovesome mien.
So sweet a face, such angel grace,
In all that land had never been:
Cophetua sware a royal oath:
'This beggar maid shall be my queen!'"

The artist shows us the beggar maid, wistful, bewildered, and ethereal, seated in her poor grey robe upon the king's throne. She is barefooted, and her arms are bare also, and below her sits the king, with his jewelled crown in his hands, looking up at her while he thus pays the homage of his love.

Happily as the painter has expressed the romance of his subject, he is not less successful in the treatment which he accords it. His technical dexterity is shown in the minute attention to detail, as well as in the rich colouring. This combination of imaginative power and craftsmanship make it a perpetual joy to the student and art-lover alike.

The picture was purchased for the nation by a body of subscribers from the executors of the Earl of Wharncliffe for 6,500 pounds.

From the book "Famous Paintings" printed in 1913.

Large files of this public domain print are available at Stock Photos at Songs of Praise
(Firefox users must click again on the large photo to see the very large image.)

Online "Name the Painting"

Edward Burne-Jones
biography at Olga's Gallery

The Mirror of Venus
by Burne-Jones

The Golden Stairs
by Burne-Jones

St. George and the Dragon
painting by Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones
information at Wikipedia

Sir Edward Burne-Jones
extensive resources at The Victorian Web

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