The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Designer: Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

Firm: Morris & Co.

Stained glass

1887-88

St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham

Burne-Jones's Other Windows in the Cathedral

  • The Ascension
  • The Nativity
  • The West Window (The Last Judgment)
  • After J. A. Chatwin (1830-1907) had enlarged the church in 1883-84, the patron of the work, the wealthy heiress Emma Villiers-Wilkes, undertook to pay most of the cost of the stained glass for the three large windows in the new chancel. Edward Burne-Jones, who was born locally and had been baptised in the church, first agreed to design the central one, showing the Ascension. He was so pleased with it that a little later he offered to design the others as well, showing the Nativity and Crucifixion.

    Photographs, text and formatting 2012 by Jacqueline Banerjee.

    [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this UR or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on this and the following image for larger pictures.]

    Burne-Jones remembered being "carried out of myself with a sort of rapture," when he made the offer to design the other two windows, and said he hoped, "perhaps not unreasonably hoped, to make [the new ones] worthy of my former achievement" (qtd. in Georgiana Burne-Jones, Vol. 2: 172). The Crucifixion is to the right of the central window. In other words, it is the south-east window of the new chancel. [Commentary continues below.]

    Detail of the Crucifixion

    In this close-up of the Crucifixion, Mary looks up despairingly while another women has placed a supportive hand on her back; a third woman also forms a group with them: "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene" (John 19, 25). A fierce-looking soldier stands facing them, while, in the foreground, a mourner crouches, either weeping or simply unable to witness the awful scene. One commentator identifies this figure, rather than one of the standing ones, as Mary Magdalene, and the disciple with the green halo pressing close to the cross as John ("The Burne-Jones Windows"). Spears are thrust up savagely on both sides.

    As Simon Bradley writes generally of these windows, "Colours are vibrant and exciting, with reds and blues predominant; designs are simple and dramatic, with a strong division between upper and lower zones, and with figures of exceptional scale" (45). There is no heavenly host in the upper part of this one though. The emphasis is all on the suffering figure.

    Other stained glass depictions of the crucifixion by Burne-Jones

    References

    Bradley, Simon. "The Stained Glass." Birmingham, by Andy Foster. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. 45. Print.

    Burne-Jones, Georgiana. Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones. New York: Macmillan, 1906. Internet Archive. Web. 4 September 2012.

    "The Burne-Jones Windows at St Philip's, Birmingham." Revolutionary Players (an informative website "focusing on the history of the industrial revolution in the West Midlands"). Web. 4 September 2012.


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    Last modified 4 September 2012