Star of Bethlehem (painting) - The Painting

The Painting

The Birmingham commission gave Burne-Jones an opportunity to revisit his tapestry design as a full-scale painting. The colour palette with its rich blue-greens differs greatly from both the original watercolour modello and the Morris tapestry, and its large size allowed him to add a wealth of fine detail not possible in the tapestry version, especially in the clothing. Burne-Jones worked on a ladder, and wrote "a tiring thing it is physically to do, up my steps and down..." A photograph by Barbara Leighton Sotheby, preserved as a platinum print by Frederick Hollyer, shows Burne-Jones on his ladder in front of the work-in-progress. The Star of Bethlehem was completed in 1890 and exhibited at the New Gallery, London, in the spring of 1891 before being sent on to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, where it remains.

Burne-Jones used a different pose of the angel holding the star, this time in a warm colour palette, to illustrate the wildflower called Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) in The Flower Book, a collection of watercolours on themes inspired by the names of flowers that he completed between 1882 and 1898.

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