'The Tree of Forgiveness ', 1882

Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Accession Number LL3635

'The Tree of Forgiveness', Edward Coley Burne-Jones

After the conquest of Troy, Demophoön stayed at the Thracian court where Phyllis, the king’s daughter, fell in love with him. They agreed to marry but he had first to return to Attica. He delayed there so long that Phyllis doubted he would ever return and killed herself. The gods turned her into an almond tree which here the penitent Demophoön is embracing, to find the tree suddenly blossoming and Phyllis reappearing to him.

As so often with Burne-Jones, violent sexual passions — love, betrayal, remorse and forgiveness — are visualised within the context of myth and within an abstract linear design of great sophistication. This greatly enhances the expressive power of the story’s climax.

An extended study of 'The Tree of Forgiveness' is available online as part of our picture of the month series.