We're taking a look at nine of the greatest objects on display in the National Trust's properties across Britain — starting with a painting at Wallington in Northumberland.
The National Trust’s collections are not only vast, but contain objects of astonishing beauty, quality and human interest.
To coincide with the Trust’s 125 anniversary, we asked nine senior curators — including national experts in painting and sculpture, textiles, furniture and decorative arts — to choose their favourite object from among those in their care.
Idleness and the Pilgrim of Love by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, about 1872–76, at Wallington, Northumberland
Chosen by Sally-Anne Huxtable, head curator
Burne-Jones was deeply inspired by Roman de la Rose, a 13th-century French poem of courtly love by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, and Chaucer’s 14th-century translation of it, The Romaunt of the Rose. The poem is an allegorical dream vision, a pilgrim’s quest for perfect love, which he eventually achieves in the form of a woman in the form of a rose bush inside the Garden of Desire.
Here, in this pastel and watercolour, executed over an earlier cartoon in pencil, the pilgrim is tested by Idleness in the form of another beautiful woman. Themes of quest and idealised love were ones to which the artist returned time and again through different media, including stained glass, tiles, painting, murals, tapestry and embroidery.