One of Edward Burne-Jones’s greatest works is “King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid” painted in 1884. The painting tells the story of King Cophetua, who falls in love with a beggar girl named Penelophon and marries her. The story is based on Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Beggar Maid,” which tells the tale of a king who finds his true love in an unexpected place.
“King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid” depicts the moment when King Cophetua sees Penelophon for the first time and falls deeply in love with her. Burne-Jones masterfully portrays their instant connection through their gaze, posture, and gentle touch. The painting is rich in symbolism with each element contributing to the narrative, from Penelophon’s torn dress that symbolizes her poverty to King Cophetua’s golden armor representing his wealth and power.
Today, this masterpiece can be admired at Tate Gallery in London. The painting’s detailed storytelling immerses its viewer into a romantic medieval fantasy with its striking colors conveying passion within simplicity; Be it looking at it from an art historical perspective or purely as a work of fiction that one could admire- it remains iconic over 100 years since its creation.