Hope (unfinished), by Edward Burne-Jones, is a Renaissance-style allegorical painting of a lone female figure. It was one of the last large paintings created by the artist before his death in 1898. The painting is reminiscent of the graceful women depicted in Botticelli’s works and is based on an 1871 watercolour by Burne-Jones.
The scene depicted in Hope is derived from the Arthurian legend about Merlin’s infatuation with Nimue, also known as the Lady of The Lake. However, unlike classic depictions of Nimue that portray her as a temptress leading Merlin into destruction or captivity, this version shows her holding him up with both hands and lifting him out of his slumber. Although unfinished at the time of Burne-Jones’s death, Hope has received critical acclaim for its intricate detail and haunting beauty.
Burne-Jones was not only a painter but also executed reliefs and decorations for pianos and organs, along with cartoons for tapestries. His influence on decorative design can still be felt today despite his limited impact on traditional painting techniques. Today, Hope resides at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston after being donated from its original home at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery—one with one largest collection’s of Burne-Jones’ artwork.