Saint Cecilia, by Edward Burne-Jones
Date: circa 1900
Medium: Stained and painted glass
Dimensions: Height: 213.5 cm (84 in); Width: 75.5 cm (29.7 in) frame: Height: 235 cm (92.5 in); Width: 88.7 cm (34.9 in); Depth: 4 cm (1.5 in)
Collection: Princeton University Art Museum
About this image:
Today we are revisiting an image of a masterpiece in glass: Saint Cecilia, by Edward Burne-Jones. She is the patroness of musicians, and her feast day is traditionally celebrated on November 22. The above image is my favorite rendering of her, as it is so vividly colored.
One of the most beautiful forms of art is stained glass, and the many works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones are without peer.
I may have said before that I’m not a fan of some of the art produced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I understand the heroic and dramatic stories they attempted to tell. Unfortunately, the more hyper-romanticized, physically impossible contortions in which they sometimes posed their heroes and heroines don’t engage my imagination in a good way.
Burne-Jones, however, ranks high on my list of favorite artists because (in my untutored opinion) his best medium was stained glass. The concept and execution of Burne-Jones’s artistic visions in glass are stunning. Vivid, intense colors, romantic subjects – his windows are glorious and seem illuminated even when not backlit by the sun.
About Saint Cecilia, From Wikimedia Commons:
One of nearly thirty versions of a window designed by Burne-Jones and executed by the company founded by William Morris (1834–1896), Saint Cecilia is a product of the Arts and Crafts movement they initiated. Friends at Oxford, Morris and Burne-Jones became disciples of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement and put into practice his vision for the renewal of art. They sought to counter the effects of the machine age by reviving medieval crafts, abolishing distinctions between fine and decorative arts, and beautifying objects of everyday life. Morris wrote on the philosophy of art and founded a company to execute textiles, wallpaper, and other objects, while Burne-Jones, in addition to painting and sculpting, studied with the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and designed murals, tapestries, and stained glass for Morris’s company.
The Gothic Revival style in architecture created a market for stained glass, especially in the 1870s, when Burne-Jones was a particularly prolific designer of windows. The first Saint Cecilia window, at Christ Church, Oxford (1875), shows the influence of the early Renaissance art he had seen in central Italy, most recently in 1871. The flat, abstracted, linear style and the wilting pose of the impossibly tall, graceful woman make reference to the work of Botticelli (Florentine, ca. 1445–1510), while the tapestry-like screen of pomegranate trees and fruits and the richly patterned brocade fabric recall the latest Gothic phase of Italian art, about 1400.
Saint Cecilia, an early Christian Roman virgin martyr, became the patron saint of music and was portrayed with an organ — here, a portable organ of the fifteenth century. Although water organs existed in the ancient world, pipe organs date from the fourteenth century, so we must assume Cecilia is singing the praises of God in heaven, not during her earthly life. In the window at Christ Church, she is flanked by lancet windows with music-making angels; scenes from the life of a fellow martyr saint, Valerian, and her own martyrdom are shown below. In Chicago, a Saint Cecilia window was included in the stained glass of the Second Presbyterian Church (1904); there, the fabric behind the saint is blue, and the tree bears lemons, demonstrating the permutations that could occur among these windows.
About the artist, from Wikipedia:
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet ARA (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898) was an English artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Burne-Jones was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain.
Credits and Attributions:
Saint Cecilia, Edward Burne-Jones [Public domain], Stained and painted glasss, ca. 1900
Wikipedia contributors, “Edward Burne-Jones,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edward_Burne-Jones&oldid=868174553 (accessed November 16, 2018).
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Burne-Jones, Sir Edward, Saint Cecilia, ca. 1900.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Burne-Jones,_Sir_Edward,_Saint_Cecilia,_ca._1900.jpg&oldid=303427881 (accessed November 16, 2018).