Edward Burne-Jones’ The Days of Creation: A Celestial Utopia


  • Liana De Girolami Cheney Professor of Art HIstory President of ATSAH (Association for Textual Scholarship in Art History)




Creation, Utopia, Angels, Beauty, Symbolism


Edward Burne-Jones’ cycle of The Days of Creation of 1870-66(Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Museums, Cambridge, MA) was highly praised and elegantly described by Oscar Wilde: “The picture is divided into six compartments, each representing a day in the Creation of the World, under the symbol of an angel holding a crystal globe, within which is shown the work of a day.” This essay examines how Burne-Jones visualized an unusual celestial creation where angels holding magical spheres unveil the divine manifestation for the creation of a terrestrial realm. His The Days of Creation is an aesthetic culmination of the artistic power of invention, imitation and creation of beauty. Burne-Jones borrows the divine concept of world creation to formulate his own artist creation. Selecting God’s week of creation, he empowers a daily angel to manifest the beauty and power of divine creation. Ultimately, Burne-Jones creates a cosmic utopia, a mythical heavenly and natural realm, where angels design a world of beauty to be emulated not only by the artist, but also by most of all by the viewer. 


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