The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones is a captivating painting that depicts the infatuation of Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend, with Nimue, Lady of the Lake. In the painting, Merlin is shown trapped in a thorn bush as Nimue reads from her spellbook, leaving him helpless. The oil on canvas artwork is part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and shows Burne-Jones’s attention to detail and use of vibrant colors.
Different versions of the tale exist with varying names for Nimue; however, this painting depicts one interpretation. The blue dress adorned by Nimue symbolizes her power in contrast to Merlin’s vulnerability portrayed by his bare feet and red clothing. The intricate hawthorn bush enveloping Merlin highlights Burne-Jones’s preoccupation with ornamental design.
This artwork was exhibited at the historic opening of Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 which helped establish Burne-Jones’s reputation as an artist who gives life to myths and legends through paint strokes. Visitors can view this masterpiece at Lady Lever Art Gallery where it captures audiences with its symbolism and beauty that tell an age-old story that has captured our imaginations for centuries.