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Lily and Pomegranate Tiles

William Morris Co. Lily and Pomegranate Tiles

No pattern should be without some sort of meaning. ~William Morris

Morris, Meaning and Symbol

Morris is known as the father of the Arts and Crafts movement but he was both a Victorian and a central figure in the group of the "second wave" Preraphaelite artists. Victorians had a strong interest in the meanings of flowers. Gifts of flowers and arrangements could send a coded message, expressing things that were best left unexpressed in Victorian society. Flower dictionaries were published.

In the work of Morris's friends and contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelites, meaning moved beyond the literal to the symbolic and sacred. Morris is the ultimate Pre-Raphaelite: Design must have meaning. Pre-Raphaelite work is laden with flowers and symbolism, as well as mythic and idealistic notions about women. His work is not only nature-inspired but reflects Pre-Raphaelite values and symbols, at the same time botanically true and symbolic.

Rossetti Symbols and Personal Context

Rossetti, lily and pomegranate symbols

William Morris's Lily and Pomegranate design marries two symbols closely linked to Rossetti. The lily costars in Rossetti's early painting, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, wherein the lily's "perfect purity" of all that is young and new and full of hope (Rossetti poem, Mary's Girlhood (for a Picture)) figures prominently. His mother and sister, Christina, were the models. Despite its subject matter, Rossetti was not a religious man. His brother, William Michael Rossetti, describes Gabriel as "more than vague in point of religious faith."

The meaning of the Pomegranate is more complex, as darkness always is. In folklore, it is a legendary fruit in many cultures, often representing fertility, marriage, and cleansing. The pomegranate is central to Rossetti's later mythic representations of Proserpine, one of many works featuring Morris's wife and Rossetti's lover, Jane Morris.

Proserpine is the Latin version of the Greek myth of Persephone, although the stories do vary slightly. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, sacred law, and cycle of life and death, was abducted by Hades while she was gathering wildflowers. Demeter did not take it well. The pomegranate is a bitter fruit of knowledge:

I wonder now about Demeter and Persephone. Maybe Persephone was glad to run off with the king of death to his underground realm, maybe it was the only way she could break away from her mother, maybe Demeter was a bad parent the way Lear was a bad parent, denying nature, including the nature of children to leave their parents. Maybe Persephone thought Hades was the infinitely cool older man who held the knowledge she sought, maybe she loved the darkness, the six months of winter, the sharp taste of pomegranates, the freedom from her mother, maybe she knew that to be truly alive death had to be part of the picture just as winter must. It was as the queen of hell that she became an adult and came into power. ~~Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide for Getting Lost

Demeter managed to bring her daughter back, but not before Persephone had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds; thus Persephone must return to the underworld six months each year. The pomegranate represents the slowing of growth and the beginning of Demeter's harvest, as the descent of the sun into the darkness of winter begins.

Lily and Pomegranate Reproduction

William Morris Lily and Pomegranate tile, 1886

William Morris's design for Lily and Pomegranate (see) shows a complex background pattern. When this design was transferred to a wood block for wallpaper and fabric printing, the pattern was represented by dots suggesting "snow". In the reproduction version of this tile, I felt the dots were too stylized for the intent of the tile, and tried to stay closer to the original design.

Lily and Pomegranate Colors and Options

This tile is seamless on the horizontal.

Designer: William Morris

Date: Lily and Pomegranate was first printed in 1886, four years after Rossetti's death in 1882.

Sizes: 4.25 inch 6, or 8 inch tiles

Background Colors: White, Victorian Blue, Cobalt, Rossetti blue (with or without "snow")


4.25 inch square tiles: $43

6 inch square tiles: $51

8 inch square tiles: $71

Quick Order Tiles from Textiles

Six-inch tiles are the most popular. You can quick order tiles from textiles in 6 inch. If you are ordering many tiles, or for other sizes or for different colors than those listed, see How to Order Tile.

  • Order number of tiles. After you've checked out, choose Return to Website to be redirected to a page where you can tell me your color preferences, ask any questions, and tell me about your project.

This only works for the US and Canada. For other countries, contact me so I can give you a shipping estimate.

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Related Pages

william morris, the soul of arts and crafts

what is arts & crafts?

where to start

how to order tile

applications, care, dimensions

site map and galleries


Lily and Pomegranate Design

William Morris, Design for Lily and Pomegranate tile, 1886