The Love Song, 1868–77
Sir Edward Burne–Jones (English, 1833–1898)
Oil on canvas; 45 x 61 3/8 in. (114.3 x 155.9 cm)
Signed (lower left): EBJ
The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1947 (47.26)
In 1846, the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a founding member of the circle of artists known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Nine years later, he assembled a group of seven friends to help him decorate the Oxford Union Building with scenes from Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. One of the driving forces of this "second Brotherhood" was Edward Burne-Jones. His Love Song, with its figures reminiscent of the fifteenth-century Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio and its "Arthurian" landscape bathed in evening light, reflects the profound influence of both the Italian Renaissance and the gothicizing Pre-Raphaelite movement.
This painting is the definitive version of several works that Burne-Jones based on a refrain from an old Breton song: "Hélas! je sais un chant d'amour, / Triste ou gai, tour à tour" (Alas, I know a love song, / Sad or happy, each in turn).