The Arming of a Knight
Medium: Painted deal, leather, and nails
Dimensions: 55 5/8 × 18 3/4 × 19 1/2 in. (141.3 × 47.6 × 49.5 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the Bequest of Doris Wright Anderson and through the F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 1997
About: At the end of 1856, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones moved into Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s old rooms in Red Lion Square, London. Morris ordered a suite of furniture from a local cabinetmaker, based on his own designs, including these two chairs. He and Rossetti decorated them together. Collaboration was an aspect of the medieval guild system that they admired and wished to imitate.
The earliest chair, painted at the end of 1856, is taken from Morris’ poem “Rapunzel” and depicts Gwendolen in the witch tower with the Prince below kissing her long golden hair. This chair includes Morris’ calligraphy, which reads “Glorious Guendolen’s Golden Hair,” referring to these lines from his poem:
Woe! That any man could dare
To climb up the yellow stair,
Glorious Guendolen’s golden hair.
The second chair was probably not decorated until early 1857. The subject matter is unclear, although it may be based on Morris’ poem “Sir Galahad: A Christmas Mystery” (1858). The scene depicts a medieval woman bestowing her glove upon a knight. These chairs signify Morris’ turn towards the decorative arts and the beginning of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England.
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