Pre-Raphaelite Mural Discovered in William Morris’s Red House


Proserpine (Jane Burden Morris)

From The Guardian

The near-lifesize figures on the wall at the Red House, now buried in south-east London suburbia at Bexleyheath, are now believed to represent the joint work of Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, Ford Madox Brown and Morris.

“In the morning we had one and a half murky figures, in the evening we had an entire wall covered in a pre-Raphaelite painting of international importance,” James Breslin, property manager at the Red House, said.

“We had no idea what the figures, or the newly revealed inscriptions, represented, but at the Red House it pretty much has to be Chaucer, Arthurian myth or the Bible – all fairly daunting works to start reading line by line.”

The property managers decided to tweet an appeal for people to help identify the text, and Breslin said that within an hour a tweet came back saying “Try Genesis 30:6”, which reads: “And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.”

The figures are from the Bible, including Rachel, Noah holding a model ark, Adam and Eve, and Jacob with his ladder – the latter possibly by Morris himself – painted as if on a tapestry furled across the wall.

However the imagery is more complex, because scholars believe it also relates to another cherished pre-Raphaelite Arthurian legend, Sir Degrevaunt who married his mortal enemy’s daughter. But then neither family thought much of Morris’s choice of Janey Burden, the beautiful daughter of an Oxford stable man.


Side note: This was originally tweeted by @HistoryLondon and retweeted by @PaulFyfe, so in addition to helping The Red House to identify the source, Twitter helped to spread the word of the discovery. We’ll be talking about the Pre-Raphaelites in English 372 in a month or two.

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