These digital reproduction of a series of drawings by Edward Burne-Jones at the Harvard Art Museums do not do the originals justice. In each drawing, one of the angels is enlightened by God’s Creative Energy. Their eyes are luminous, their faces animated, the creative flow possessing them one by one.

                  thefirstday thesecondday thethirdday thefthday thesixthday

Days of Creation

Edward Burne-Jones


Watercolor, gouache, shell gold, and platinum paint on linen-covered panel prepared with zinc white ground

102.1 x 35.9 cm


(Click on the images for higher resolution – more detail).

Isn’t this what it’s like when the stars align, time stops, and we can just create? When the paint adheres to the paper in just the right way, when the colours work, when the light falling on our worktable is that quality of bright day moonlight? Ah, to reach these states every time we sit to work!


I love how, as the series progresses, the backgrounds become fuller too. As Creation progresses, there’s slowly a context building around the angels. The globes could have been artworks by themselves, and would have seemed contemporary.


The fourth panel is missing. I can’t help but speculate that while they were out of their original frame, the owner’s child “enhanced” the drawing with xer own crayon marks. Or someone spilt water on it. Or the cat chased a dove around the house, delivering the final blood-spattering blow on a priceless drawing.
Burne-Jones was such a master at rendering the human figure. Just look at those feet. Just look at those hands. I can’t look at this enough.

From the description in the museum:

“Oscar Wilde, who admired the series when it was on display in London in 1877, wrote that the fourth angel bore a ‘crystal glow[ing] like a heated opal.'”

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