Friday, March 21, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Laura Lyttleton Memorial Tablet by Edward Burne-Jones, 1886

Memorial Tablet
Edward Burne-Jones, 1886
One of two.  This one, polychrome; the other, white.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since antiquity, memorial tablets have been produced to mark the passing of a loved one.  These tablets aren’t meant to be tombstones, but are used in private venues away from the burial place to serve of reminders of the deceased.

These colored plaster memorial tablet was designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) in memory of his close friend Laura Lyttleton (née Tennant).  Lyttleton died in childbirth in 1886 within the first year of her marriage.

This is one of two that Burne-Jones created for Lyttleton.  The original—of plain white plaster--was installed in the church of St Andrew in Mells, Somerset. The colored version which we see here was made for Burne-Jones's own house, The Grange, in Fulham.

Burne-Jones, like many artists in his Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood--favored the symbolism of the peacock.   He had been studying Byzantine art and discovered that the peacock was a symbol of the Resurrection in Greek culture of the Christian era.

Lady Georgiana Burne-Jones described this tablet in her biography of her husband.  She wrote:

Laura, the daughter of Sir Charles Tennant: in our house she so fascinated us all that we called her ‘The Siren’ [Her memorial] is eight feet high and an effigy of a peacock which is the symbol of the Resurrection standing upon a laurel tree - and the laurel grows out of the tomb and burst through the side of the tomb with a determination to go on living and refusing to be dead and below was a Latin inscription made by Dean Church one of the many who loved her.

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