Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
'Garden of the Hesperides'
Tempera and gilt on gesso
Museum no. Circ.525-1953
This represents the classical myth of the three daughters of Hesperus, who tended the dragon of Ladon and guarded the golden apples of Hera. However, Burne-Jones has reduced the number of daughters to two, apparently in the interests of symmetry. It provides an example of Burne-Jones's interest in classical form, especially in the treatment of the background and in the shapes of the ewer and harp. The scene is represented in low relief. Platinum, a white metal, was used in addition to the more common gold leaf in the gilding. The picture was made as an overmantel for a cottage in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
This scene, popular in Roman times, has obvious parallels with biblical imagery of the Garden of Eden. It has been suggested that this subject was the source of the idea that the apple was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge; in the bible itself the fruit is never explicitly identified.