Good Reading : July 2017
GOOD READING JULY 2017 17 BEHIND THE BOOK 1 Top: Frederick Hollyer’s photograph of Margaret Burne-Jones, daughter of painter Edward Burne-Jones, about 1890. Bo om: The famous painting Sleeping Beauty The Rose Bower, one of four paintings in a series titled ‘The Legend of Briar Rose’, which caused a sensation when they were first exhibited in 1890. This picture features Margaret Burne-Jones as Sleeping Beauty. Macdonald became engaged to Edward Burne-Jones when she was just 15. They were marr ied four years later, within weeks of Lizzie and Rossetti. The three couples spent many happy weekends together at Morr is’s country house, painting, playing games and explor ing the countryside. However, in 1864 Georgie contracted scarlet fever which brought on the premature birth of her second child. The baby died and, grief-stricken, Georgie turned away from her husband. Her third child – a daughter named Margaret – was born in 1866, the same year as Burne-Jones began an ardent liaison with his favourite model, the Greek sculptor Mar ia Zambaco. When Burne-Jones refused to leave his wife and children, Mar ia begged him to commit suicide with her by swallowing laudanum, then – when he refused – tried to drown herself in Regent’s Canal. The affair caused a scandal, and Burne-Jones didn’t exhibit for many years. He began to paint his adolescent daughter as obsessively as he had once painted his mistress. Margaret was his model for his monumental painting Sleeping Beauty, which occupied him for close on a decade. Margaret fell in love with the Scottish writer John William Mackail, but her father could not bear to think of losing his muse. Margaret had to find the strength to defy her father and marry the man she loved. Burne-Jones’s four ‘Sleeping Beauty’ paintings were shown to the public in 1890 and were greeted by the people with ‘enthusiasm amounting to ecstasy’, as the newspapers of the time reported. The quartet was sold for 15 000 guineas, the largest amount ever paid for an artwork in Britain, and Burne-Jones was consequently knighted. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth is published by Vintage, rrp $32.99.