Jane Burden

Jane Burden

Jane Burden (19 October 1839 – 26 January 1914) was an English artists' model who the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. She was a model and muse to the artists William Morris, whom she married, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who may have been her lover.


Jane Burden was born in Oxford to a stableman named Robert Burden and his wife Ann Maizey. Around the time she was born, her parents were living at St. Helen's Passage, St Peter in the East, off Holywell Street in Oxford, marked with a blue plaque. [Lisle, Nicola, Cinderella story. "Oxfordshire Limited Edition", no. 249, pages 23–25, October 2007.] Her mother Ann was and probably came to Oxford as a domestic servant. Little is known of Jane's childhood, but clearly it was one of poverty and deprivation.

In October 1857, Jane and her sister Elizabeth, known in the family as "Bessie", were attending a performance in Oxford of the Drury Lane Theatre Company. Jane was noticed by the artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones who belonged to a group of artists painting murals based on Arthurian tales in the Oxford Union. Struck by Jane's beauty, they sought her to model for them. Jane initially sat mainly for Rossetti, who needed a model for Queen Guinivere. After this, Jane sat for Morris, who was working on an easel painting, "La Belle Iseult" (Tate Gallery). Like Rossetti, Morris also used Jane as his model for his rendition of Queen Guinevere. During this period, Morris fell in love with Jane and they were engaged.

Jane's education was extremely limited and she was probably intended to go into domestic service. After her engagement, Jane was privately educated. Her keen intelligence allowed her essentially to recreate herself. She was a voracious reader and became proficient in French and later Italian. She also became an accomplished pianist with a strong background in classical music. Her manners and speech became refined to an extent that contemporaries referred to her as "Queenly". Later in life, she would have no trouble moving in upper class circles and she appears to have been the model for Mrs Higgins in Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion" (1914).

She married William Morris at St Michael's Church, Oxford, on 26 April 1859. Her father was at that time described as a groom, in stables at 65 Holywell Street, Oxford.

Jane Burden and William Morris lived firstly at the Red House in Bexleyheath, Kent. While there, they had two daughters, Jane Alice "Jenny", born January 1861, and Mary "May" (March 1862 – 1938), who was the editor of her father's works. They then lived for many years at Kelmscott Manor, on the Gloucestershire-Oxfordshire-Wiltshire borders, which is now open to the public.

During this time, Jane became closely attached to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and, in addition to being his muse, may have been his lover.

In 1884, Jane met the poet and political activist Wilfrid Scawen Blunt at a house party given by her close friend Rosalind Howard (later Countess of Carlisle). There appears to have been an immediate attraction between the two. By 1887 at the latest, the pair had become lovers. [Mancoff, p.98] Their sexual relationship would continue until 1894, and they remained close friends until Jane's death.

Jane Morris was an ardent supporter of Irish Home Rule.

William Morris died on 3 October 1896 at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, London. Jane died on 26 January, 1914 while staying at 5 Brock Street, Bath.


Paintings of Jane Morris by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

*Astarte Syriaca, 1875–79. City Art Gallery, Manchester.
*Beatrice, a Portrait of Jane Morris, 1879. Oil on canvas 13½ × 11 inches.
*The Day Dream, 1880. Oil on canvas. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
*La Donna della Fiamma, 1877. Coloured chalks. Manchester Art Gallery.
*La Donna della Finestra, 1879. Oil on canvas. Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.
*La Donna Della Finestra, 1881 (unfinished).
*Jane Morris, c. 1860. Pencil.
*Jane Morris, 1865.
*Mariana, 1870. Aberdeen Art Gallery.
*Pandora, 1869.
*Pandora, 1871.
*La Pia de' Tolomei, 1866-1870. Oil on canvas. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas.
*Portrait of Mrs William Morris.
*Portrait of Jane Morris, 1858. Pen.
*Proserpine, 1873–1877. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London.
*Reverie, 1868. Chalk on paper. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.
*The Roseleaf, 1865. Pencil.
*Study of Guinevere for "Sir Lancelot in the Queen's Chamber", 1857.

Photographs of Jane Burden by Rossetti are available at [http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/sa140.raw.html] .

By William Morris:

*Queen Guinevere (also called La Belle Iseult), 1858. Oil.

By Edward Burne-Jones:

*Numerous stained-glass windows, including at Christ Church, Oxford.

By Evelyn De Morgan:

*Portrait of Jane Morris, 1904.

Possibly based on Jane Burden (Morris) / "Venus Verticordia" — oil — 1863–8. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth.



*cite book | last = Marsh | first = Jan | year = 1986 | title = Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938 | publisher = Pandora Press | location = London | id = ISBN 0-86358-026-2
*cite book | last = Marsh | first = Jan | edition = (updated edition, privately published by author) | year = 2000 | title = Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938 | publisher = Jan Marsh | location = London | id =
*cite book | last = Mancoff | first = Debra N. | year = 2000 | title = Jane Morris: The Pre-Raphaelite Model of Beauty | publisher = Pomegranate | location = San Francisco | id = ISBN 0-7649-1337-9

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