Divine Provision and the “Preternatural Imagination” of Edward Burne-Jones in the Mosaics of “The American Church” in Rome

in Religion and the Arts
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Abstract

This essay examines the multiplicity of ways the building and decoration of the American church of St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls in Rome signaled the dawning of a “new age,” politically and spiritually, as the first Protestant church constructed within the city of Rome, initiated immediately after the city was freed from papal rule in 1870. The mosaics, designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and completed with the help of his assistant Thomas Rooke in the decades that follow, present Christ, and the Church in particular, as sources of divine sustenance and verdant life in the barren wilderness of this world. But it is the splendor of their design and the material magnificence of the mosaics themselves that create the first powerful and most lasting impact. Viewed through the lens of what P. T. Forsyth described as the “preternatural imagination” of Burne-Jones, these mosaics are distinctly contemporary works deeply rooted in religious and artistic tradition that address the transitional times for which they were made.

Divine Provision and the “Preternatural Imagination” of Edward Burne-Jones in the Mosaics of “The American Church” in Rome

in Religion and the Arts

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    Figure 1

    Edward Burne-Jones, with the assistance of Thomas Rooke, apse mosaics, Church of St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls in Rome, 1885–1907.

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    Figure 2

    George Edmund Street, Perspective and Plan of St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls, Rome, signed and dated 1875. Watercolor.

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    Figure 3

    Edward Burne-Jones, Christ Enthroned in the Heavenly Jerusalem, apse mosaic

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    Figure 4

    Edward Burne-Jones, Christ Enthroned in the Heavenly Jerusalem, apse mosaic, detail

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    Figure 5

    Edward Burne-Jones, The Annunciation, apse mosaic, 1894

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    Figure 6

    Edward Burne-Jones, The Tree of Life mosaic, 1894

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    Figure 7

    Edward Burne-Jones with Thomas Rooke, The Earthly Paradise, apse mosaic, 1907

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    Figure 8

    Edward Burne-Jones with Thomas Rooke, The Hermit Saints, detail of The Earthly Paradise mosaic, 1907

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    Figure 9

    Edward Burne-Jones with Thomas Rooke, detail of The Heavenly Jerusalem mosaic, 1907

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    Figure 10

    Edward Burne-Jones with Thomas Rooke, The Virgin Saints and The Warrior Saints, detail of The Earthly Paradise mosaic, 1907

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    Figure 11

    Edward Burne-Jones with Thomas Rooke, The Church Fathers, detail of The Earthly Paradise mosaic, 1907

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