Rossetti, Lancelot's Vision of the Sanc Grael

Rossetti, Lancelot's Vision of the Sanc Grael

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

1857

England

watercolour painting

Between 1857 and 1859, some young artists were commissioned by John Ruskin to paint Arthurian murals in the new debating chamber (now the Old Library) at the Oxford Union—the student-run debating and social society. The episode became a defining moment for pre-Raphaelite and medievalist art, as the group included William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Arthur Hughes and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Though they can still be visited, the murals were a technical failure, deteriorating quickly because the artists had not prepared the walls correctly. Rossetti and Burne-Jones first encountered Jane Burden (later Jane Morris) at a theatre in Oxford, and she became the model for Guinevere in many subsequent pictures. Burne-Jones modelled for Lancelot here, in Rossetti’s watercolour study for one section of the murals leaving space for the shapes of the windows in the Union Building. Lancelot, whose sinful desire for Guinevere will prevent him from achieving the Grail quest, has a vision of the Grail maiden, while Guinevere stands between them, a new Eve about to pluck an apple.

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