The Beguiling of Merlin

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The Beguiling of Merlin
Beguiling of Merlin.jpg
Artist Edward Burne-Jones
Year 1872–77
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 186 cm × 111 cm (73 in × 44 in)
Location Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside

The Beguiling of Merlin is a painting by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones which was created between 1872 and 1877.

The painting depicts a scene from Arthurian legend, the infatuation of Merlin with the Lady of the Lake, Nimue. Merlin is shown trapped, helpless in a hawthorn bush as Nimue reads from a book of spells.[1]

The work was commissioned from Burne-Jones by Frederick Richards Leyland, a Liverpool ship-owner and art-collector,[2] in the late 1860s. After a false start blamed on "poor materials" Burne-Jones began work on the painting proper in 1873, finishing the body of the work by the end of 1874; although the painting was not first exhibited until 1877 at the opening exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery in London.[1]

Burne-Jones used Maria Zambaco, who was probably his mistress from 1866 to 1872, for the model for the head of Nimue.[1]

The painting was purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1918 and remains in the Lady Lever Art Gallery to the present day.[1]

The painting features on the cover of the novel Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt and The Last Pre-Raphaelite by Fiona MacCarthy[3] It also plays a significant role in King Solomon's Carpet by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Artwork of the Month - January, 2003 - The Beguiling of Merlin, by Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 - 1898) at
  2. Frederick Richards Leyland, 1832-1892 at the Center for Whistler Studies.
  3. "The Last Pre-Raphaelite by Fiona MacCarthy". The Guardian. August 25, 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading