Sponsa de Libano Edward Burne-Jones Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Sponsa de Libano is a watercolor, paper on panel painting that was completed in 1891. The painting depicts an elegant lady walking through the woodlands on a path that intersects white lilies. In the background are feminine images that symbolize the North and Southern winds.

The whirling and interlocking garments represent the conflicts in her life. The artist wanted to project the image of calm and composed, lady who is battling a whirlwind of internal conflicts. Sponsa de Libano is Italian for The Bride of Lebanon and was inspired by classic literature in the Song of Solomon in the bible. The draperies swirling in the wind allude to verse (4:16) in the Song of Solomon talking about bride blowing fragrances towards her lover. It represents the tension that exists in the life of a beautiful lady who is split between fulfilling commitment to her fiance and flirting with a secret lover. Burne-Jones' open expression of lust shocked the Victorian audience at the time.

Burne-Jones borrowed the idea of blowing winds from Botticelli's paintings such as Primavera and The Birth of Venus, which feature brides trapped in the chaos created by interlocking garments. He encountered Botticelli's Renaissance work in 1859 and liked the style so much that it became the inspiration for most of his work. The painting is consistent with his style of using intense linear patterns using heavy layers of drapery that are a common feature of all the works he produced in the late 1800s. It is part of a series he christened five ‘designs from the Song of Solomon’ that includes Night and the Mill.

Burne-Jones used the same style of blending bright colors with dark colors that is evident in the Mill, Love among Ruins and the Night. Just like in the former, the main characters dominate the painting with other details confined to the background. Sponsa de Libano is the property of the National Museums, Liverpool but is available at several exhibitions across the U.K. including Lady Lever Art Gallery and Walker Art Gallery.