The Scholars Window at Marlborough College: A Testament to the Artistry of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones
The Scholars Window at Marlborough College, a renowned educational institution in the United Kingdom, is a beautiful testament to the collaborative genius of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Dating back to 1875, this stained glass window in the college's chapel is a perfect example of their artistic prowess and design acumen, showcasing their mastery of both technique and style. This essay delves into the rich history, intricate design elements, and the lasting impact of the Scholars Window, which has become an integral part of Marlborough College's legacy.
Genesis of a Collaboration: Reorganization of Morris's Firm
The Scholars Window came into existence during a pivotal moment in William Morris's career. Dissolving his previous firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., Morris embarked on a new journey, as he felt that his partners were more focused on their individual interests, rather than the collective vision of the firm. With the establishment of his reorganized firm, Morris took on the commission for the Scholars Window at Marlborough College, which would prove to be a much-needed financial boost for his fledgling enterprise.
Unwavering Friendship: Morris and Burne-Jones
William Morris's friendship with Edward Burne-Jones played a vital role in the creation of the Scholars Window. Morris was responsible for the overall design and the making of the glass, while Burne-Jones, a renowned painter and designer in his own right, drew the figures depicted in the window. Their combined efforts resulted in an exquisite work of art that has withstood the test of time.
's Charge to is a stained-glass window located in , , . It was designed by and in 188212. The window depicts a scene from the in which King David charges his son Solomon to build the in 3. The window is another fine example of the collaboration between Burne-Jones and Morris2. Morris & Co. also produced Tristram and Isoude stained glass panels4 by Burne-Jones, as well as many others.
Depicting a Timeless Tale: Samuel and Timothy
The window, funded by donations from Old Marlburians (OMs), features the biblical figures Samuel and Timothy. These characters symbolize the scholars of the college and serve as a reminder of the importance of education and learning. While the figures drawn by Burne-Jones have faded over time, the decorative foliage remains vibrant, drawing the eye and capturing the imagination.
The Acanthus Leaf Motif: A Pioneering Design Element
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Scholars Window is the early use of the acanthus leaf motif. This design element, which later became one of Morris's most successful motifs, foreshadowed the flowing organic forms characteristic of the Art Nouveau movement of the 1880s. The acanthus leaf motif in the Scholars Window demonstrates Morris's innovative design sensibilities, as well as his ability to anticipate and influence future artistic trends.
The Burne-Jones Legacy at Marlborough College
The connection between the Burne-Jones family and Marlborough College runs deep. At the time when the Scholars Window was being created, Edward Burne-Jones's son, Philip Burne-Jones, had just started his education at the college. This connection was further solidified by William Morris's suggestion that Philip attend Marlborough, reinforcing the bond between the two families.
Beguiling of Merlin: A Connection to Marlborough's Mythology
While Philip Burne-Jones was preparing to enter Marlborough College, his father, Edward Burne-Jones, was painting one of his most famous works, The Beguiling of Merlin. This painting relates the story of Merlin's entrapment by Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. Interestingly, Merlin is believed to be buried in the Marlborough Mound, a local landmark steeped in legend. This connection between Marlborough's mythology and the Burne-Jones family adds a layer of intrigue to the Scholars Window and its creators.
A Unique Tomb for Frederick Richards Leyland: Burne-Jones's Exceptional Commission
As Edward Burne-Jones was working on the Scholars Window, he received a commission from Frederick Richards Leyland, a Liverpool shipowner and art collector, to paint The Beguiling of Merlin. Leyland held Burne-Jones in high regard, and their relationship eventually led to another exceptional commission – the design of Leyland's tomb in Brompton Cemetery. This tomb is the only three-dimensional work ever designed by Burne-Jones, showcasing his versatility as an artist and his ability to adapt his talents to different mediums.
The Lasting Impact of the Scholars Window: A Reflection of Artistic Evolution
The Scholars Window at Marlborough College stands as an enduring testament to the collaborative genius of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. It is a reflection of their artistic evolution, showcasing the early use of the acanthus leaf motif, which would later become synonymous with Morris's work and the Art Nouveau movement. The window also serves as a reminder of the enduring bond between the Burne-Jones family and Marlborough College, a connection that has become an indelible part of the college's history.
The Scholars Window in Modern Times: A Beacon of Inspiration
Today, the Scholars Window continues to inspire students, faculty, and visitors alike. Its intricate designs and captivating imagery serve as a reminder of the importance of art, education, and the pursuit of knowledge. The window stands as a testament to the power of artistic collaboration, demonstrating how the combined efforts of two visionaries can create a lasting legacy that continues to enrich and inspire generations.
The Scholars Window at Marlborough College is an exquisite work of art that captures the essence of the collaboration between William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Its rich history, intricate design elements, and enduring impact make it a cherished masterpiece, one that will continue to captivate and inspire for years to come.