Flodden Field by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 1875-1883 [Painted in 1882]. Gouache and gold paint on paper in the original frame Signed EBJ lower left; inscribed on the back panel in pencil "Design for bas relief Battling Flodden" and "No 158." 20 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches; 52 x 100.5 centimetres. Provenance: The executors of the artist, 1904; David Greig, by descent in the family.
Still from the sire the son shall hear
Of stern strife, and carnage drear;
Of Flodden's fatal field
Where shivered was fair Scotland's spear
And broken was her shield. — Walter Scott, Marmion
Flodden Field was commissioned by George Howard, the ninth Earl of Carlisle, to decorate the library at Naworth Castle. The design was for a bas-relief to be modelled by Sir J E Boehm in 1882. The Earl had chosen the subject because his ancestors had been present at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. George Howard had originally commissioned Burne-Jones to paint a triptych for the room. The artist had become so obsessed with his masterpiece, Arthur in Avalon, that it became apparent that lie would never rinish it and so Howard relinquished his claim and accepted Flodden Field to go in its place.
Burne-Jones would have had a variety of sources to work for the subject of the battle of Flodden Field. It is said that "more poetry has been written about Fladden Field than any other battle since the days of Homer." The Battle was fought in an attempt by King James IV of Scotland to weaken the English forces in the approaching war between England and France. Thousands of human lives were sacrificed and King Jamcs himself was killed, "every man fought with a resolution and stubbornness beyond what the single army could ordinarily accomplish... hour after hour every inch of ground was doggedly contested." [James Robson]
Burne-Jones and Morris were frequenters of George Howard's circle of friends and fellow painters, who included Alphonse Legros, Giovanni Costa and Guiseppe Mazzini. All of them stayed at Naworth Castle in Cumberland. As a wealthy man, Howard was able to commission many paintings and Burne-Jones, and Morris undertook a number of other commissions for him including the decoration of his dining room at 1 Palace Green, Kensington, with the story of Cupid and Psyche (Waters, 54-55)
Bell, Malcolm. Sir Fdward Burne-Jones, A Record and Review London: George Bell and Sons, 1893.
Harrison, Martin. and Bill Waters. Burne-Jones. London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1973.
Robson, James. Border Battles and Battlefields. Kelso, 1897.
Waters, Bill. Burne-Jones -- A Quest for Love: Works by Sir Edward Burne-Jones Bt and Related Works by Contemporary Artists. London: Peter Nahum, 1993. Catalogue number 22.
Last modified 8 December 2004