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Edward Burne-Jones Stars and Planets

Moon and Stars Tiles adapted from the Morris & Co. Series, 1878

Of all stars the most beautiful ~Sappho

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High Church at Home   :  Stained Glass Windows   :  Stars and Planets Tiles

Edward Burne-Jones Stars and Planets tiles

Overview of the Moon and Stars

The Moon and Stars tiles are based on a series of planetary stained glass panels made by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris & Co. in 1878. The stained glass panels from The Woodlands of Morning star, Evening star, Venus, and Luna were, until 2008, were owned by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, less known as a collector of Pre-Raphaelite art and Burne-Jones fan. The tiles have an interesting history, which I go on and on about below. You can see Mars at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Burne-Jones complete the designs for Stars and Planets series in 1879; they were first executed as stained glass panels under the direction of William De Morgan for Morris and Co. Some Stars and Planets tiles were made later, but not from the same designs, and I strongly favor the stained glass designs.

High Church at Home

Like Morris and other Pre-Raphaelites in his circle, Edward Burne-Jones was interested in astronomy both from a nineteenth-century scientific perspective as well as from a medieval perspective. In 1879, Morris & Co. created nine Planets panels as part of a commission for a 20-foot high, semi-circular window in the music room at Woodlands, the home of Baron Angus Holden. This was in fact revolutionary; by the nineteenth century, stained glass panels were created only for churches. Morris's first home, Red House, had been the first contemporary home to incorporate stained glass into its design. This was in keeping with Morris's philosophy of keeping home as the center sphere of life, the place where a life "Art is my religion" begins.

The Stars and Planets Windows

We have recovered both stained glass panels from the original commission, as well as some of Burne-Jones pre-production cartoons for those designs, but not a complete set of either. Seven of the pre-production designs are in the Torre Abbey Museum: Luna, Terra, Sol, Venus, Jupter, Saturn, and Evening Star.

These were not Morris and Burne-Jones first treatments of the planets and their spheres in stained glass. One of Morris and Co.'s early commissions was for the Book of Genesis rose window at All Saints at Selsley in Glouchestershire. One roundel presents the planets, stars, and the lights (sun and moon). A few years later, The Firm (Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co.) used the signs of the zodiac in the decoration of the Green Dining Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The original panels were lost for many years, but several resurfaced in the late 1970s and 1990s. The first four figures are noted in Burne-Jones account book on 18 August 1878: Venus, Luna, Morning and Evening Stars. Saturn and Mars followed on 22 August, and Earth*, Jupiter and the Sol on 1 November. All sold for 15 pounds each.

Edward Burne-Jones, Stars and Planets panels from Woodlands Hall

A Second Set

Two sets of Stars and Planets panels were made, although not identical. Descriptions of The Woodlands, where the tiles were first installed, describe nine stained glass panels. A second set of ten were made from Burne-Jones original designs in 1910, twelve years after Burne-Jones'death 1898. The tenth tile in the second set of tiles produced by Morris & Co. from Burne-Jones designs isn't identified. A few other anomalies in the sets are discussed at the bottom of this page.

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Moon and Stars tiles on cobalt, made for Peter Stockinger.

These tiles were made for Peter Stockinger, author and traditional astrologer (About).

Edward Burne-Jones, Venus and Luna.  Tiles from stained glass. William Morris Tile.

Edward Burne-Jones, Morning and Evening Stars.  Tiles from stained glass. William Morris Tile.

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Anomalies: Saturn, Mercury, and Terra

Edward Burne-Jones Angel

The composition of the set is based on the designs listed for the series in Burne-Jones' account books, not the number of recovered panels. In those designs, the names are emblazoned above the figures, at least partially, but the stained glass panels from The Woodlands that we have recovered do not have Latin the inscriptions from the pre-production designs. Moreover, there is a discrepancy between the names listed in the accounts book and the Latin inscriptions on the designs.

The Latin inscrption has been transferred to Terra (listed as Earth in the accounting list) - and while we do have a Burne-Jones Terra panel based on that design, it's not at all clear if that is the same design that was in the stained glass panel installed at Woodlands. It is certainly different in style. Burne-Jones often left blank scrolls in designs which could later be filled in with an appropriate inscription. And not all entries entries in his accounts books appear to be in his own hand. This may not matter, but does suggest one, of perhaps several possibilities why the composition of Burne-Jones panels vary somewhat from the designs as well asfrom the medieval works from which he took his inspiration.


Edward Burne-Jones 1878 design for Saturn stained glass panel and medieval Saturn from De Sphaera Mundi

For Saturn, we do have the pre-production cartoon, although the stained glass panel itself has not emerged. Part of his name is visible overhead, but he is most easily identified by his scythe, the water bearer, and the children at his feet.

The design for Saturn differs the most from the De Sphaera Mundi, but still contains the medieval and mythic elements.


I'm stymied; why has Burne-Jones included Earth in the set but Mercury appears to have been excluded? Mercury is one of the original spheres shown in De Sphaera Mundi, the most famous medieval astronomy text that Burne-Jones would have most certainly become familiar with on his trips to Italy. (Spoiler: No good answers forthcoming). Certain elements in the Burne-Jones designs bear more than a passing similarity to elements in De Sphaera, a well-known medieval astronomical text that Burne-Jones would have been familiar with from his many trips to Italy. Perhaps it could be as simple as we haven't found Mercury, or that the customer didn't like the design and so Earth, which bears several similarities to elements in an earlier series, The Seasons, was substituted as the series neared completion.


Edward Burne-Jones Terra

Of all the panels we have, it is Terra who has kept the Tudor arch and Latin inscription that Burne-Jones used in the pre-production design.

The design labeled "Terra" is included in the set of cartoon designs, yet Mercury is not. It is interesting to notice that the pre-production cartoon for Earth shows a maiden carrying a twig or rod, which have since the time of Babylonians been used to symbolize the constellation of Virgo (one of the two signs ruled by Mercury), as well as being associated with Ceres, a Harvest goddess - something Burne-Jones would have been well aware of. Some of these elements appear to have been imported from an earlier series, The Seasons. The inclusion of Terra while Mercury is absent is unsettling, especially since Terra contains Mercurial significations.

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