The Love Song (1868-1877)

Burne-Jones, Edward (1833-1898)

The Love Song
Oil on canvas, 114.3 x 155.9 cm
Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew York

Burne-Jones associated this painting with a refrain from a French folk ballad: “Alas, I know a love song, / Sad or happy, each in turn.” Cupid, his arrows slung over his shoulder, works the bellows on the portative organ. This picture, which took nine years to complete, unites inspirations that shaped Burne-Jones’s art: medievalism, Italian Renaissance painting, romance, beauty, and music. (MET)

Burne-Jones exhibited this painting with the lyrics “Alas, I know a love song, / Sad or happy, each in turn.” Cupid, with arrows slung over his shoulder, pumps the organ at right. Burne-Jones associated the scene with his affair with artist and model Maria Zambaco (1843–1914). More broadly, the picture reflects the embrace of music as a model for art that appeals directly to the emotions. As one critic said of this painting, “There is no story: nothing to guess at, but everything to feel.” It was first owned by businessman William Graham, who commissioned the Small Briar Rose series displayed nearby. Also on view are works by, and a bust of, Puvis de Chavannes, who championed Burne-Jones’s art in France. Their shared devotion to an idealized and dreamlike past earned Puvis the moniker “the French Burne-Jones.” (MET)