This is an unfinished version or sketch for 'The Sleeping Beauty', the first composition in the artist’s ‘Briar Rose’ series of 1870-73. The Prince (not shown here) must cut his way through the enchanted forest to awaken the princess with a kiss. Other knights have tried to reach her but have fallen into a deep, magic slumber. Like many artists Burne-Jones worked first on nudes before clothing the figures. His skill in foreshortening to suggest depth and in showing contorted poses came from his study of Italian Renaissance art, and is well demonstrated here.


  • Title: Study for 'The Sleeping Knights'
  • Creator: Edward Burne-Jones
  • Date Created: About 1870
  • tag / style: Edward Coley Burne-Jones; Pre-Rahphaelite; Symbolism; Knights; nude; sleeping; foreshortening; Sleeping Beauty; Briar Rose; Renaissance; briars; tangle; study
  • Physical Dimensions: w813 x h588 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Edward Coley Burne-Jones is one of the great artistic figures of the 19th century. Born in Birmingham into a middle class family, he first trained as an artist at the Government School of Design. In 1853 he went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he met a young William Morris (who was to become the eminent 19th-century designer, illustrator and political writer). Both men had intended to enter the church. However, inspired by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and the great medieval architecture of northern France they decided to pursue careers in the arts. Their working relationship was to be a long and fruitful one. This was especially true of their work on designs for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, set-up in 1861. Throughout his career, Burne-Jones used literature as a source of inspiration and his designs and decorative arts closely relate to his paintings. His most famous and ambitious works are his series pictures including 'The Briar Rose' (1873), 'Pygmalion' (1875-8), and 'Perseus' (1882).
  • Additional artwork information: This painting was the subject of an ‘Artwork of the Month’ talk at the Walker Art Gallery in July 2000. To read the notes from this talk please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=147
  • Type: Oil paint on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by JG Legge in 1914

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