Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, John Henry Dearle and Morris & Co.

Creator: Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, John Henry Dearle and Morris & Co.   Birmingham Museums Trust, UK
Title: Quest for the Holy Grail Tapestries - Panel 2 - The Arming and Departure of the Knights   EMu user since 2013
Date: 1895-1896    
Materials: Wool, silk, mohair and camel hair weft on cotton warp    

Quest for the Holy GrailWoven in 1895-96, this is one of three tapestries from the Holy Grail series. Commissioned in 1895 by industrialist Laurence Hodson for the drawing room of Compton Hall, his house near Wolverhampton, it was sold back to Morris & Co. in 1906 and bought by public subscription by Birmingham Museum in 1907.

This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D’Arcy for display in the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall, in Middlesex. Several further versions were woven later.

The subject matter is based on the 15th century text Le Morte D’Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. It tells the story of the spiritual quest by the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper.

Here the second scene depicts the virgin ladies of King Arthur’s Court assisting the knights in preparation for their quest. On the far left, Queen Guinevere hands Sir Lancelot his shield, in an allusion to their adulterous relationship, the cause of Sir Lancelot’s impending failure.

Sir Gawaine, who will also fail in the quest, appears mounted on the right of the picture, identified by his shield, which bears a double-headed eagle.

Burne-Jones based the costumes loosely on those of the twelfth century. Throughout the series Morris designed the heraldry and Dearle designed the flowers in the foreground.

Acknowledgements: Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1907. © Birmingham Museums Trust