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The Star of Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem, 1887 - 1891

Watercolour and bodycolour with scraping on ten sheets of J. Whatman Turkey Mill Kent paper dated 1882 or 1883, on stretcher.
2560mm x 3868mm
E B J 18/90
Commissioned by the Corporation of Birmingham, 1887, and purchased through the Art Gallery Purchase Fund, 1891.

Accession Number:



Nativity scene with an angel holding the star in its hands.


Exhibition History

1891 London, New Gallery
1998-99 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
2007 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery


Recent Paintings. Art Journal: June 1891. p.185.
Recent Paintings. Academy: October 10, 1891. p.317.
Malcolm Bell. Edward Burne-Jones: A Record & Review. George Bell & Sons, London: 1892 . p. 14.
Art Annual. : P. 24.
Otto von Schleinitz. Burne-Jones. Bielefeld und Leipzig, Leipzig: 1901. p.136.
Georgiana Burne-Jones. Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones. Macmillan, London: 1903. Vol. II: p. 209.
Malcolm Bell. Sir Edward Burne-Jones. George Bell & Sons, London: 1903. p.68.
Fortunee de Lisle. Edward Burne-Jones. Methuen, London: 1904. p.142 (detail repro p. 143).
Pictoral Education. Evans Brothers, London: 1929. Vol. III, no. 12.
The Outspan. : p. 24 (repro).
A E Whitley. Catalogue of Drawings. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery: 1931. p. 27.
T S R Boase. Biblical Illustration in 19th Century Art. Journal of the Warburg and Courthauld Institutes: 1966. p.365.
Martin Harrison and Bill Waters. Burne-Jones. Barrie & Jenkins, London: 1973. p. 217 (repro).
Penelope Marcus (Editor). Burne-Jones: The Paintings, Decorative & Graphic Work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Arts Council of Great Britain: 1975. p.75.
Maria Teresa Benedetti (Editor) and Stephen Wildman. Burne-Jones. Gabriele Mazzotta, Milan: 1987. p.66.
Richard Edmonds and Russell Ash. Edward Burne-Jones. Pavilion, New York: 1993. pl. 33.
Stephen Wildman and John Christian. Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 1998. pp. 293-296 (repro 294).
Christopher Wood. Burne-Jones. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London: 1998. p. 120-121.
Pre-Raphaelites & Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. Royal Academy of Arts: 2003. p. 70 (repro).
Elisa Korb with John Christian and Tessa Sidey. Hidden Burne-Jones, Works on paper by Edward Burne-Jones from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Dan Giles, Ltd., London: 2007. p. 93, B1095.

Research Information:

Burne-Jones was approached by the Corporation of Birmingham in 1887 to paint a major work for the new Municipal Museum and Art Gallery. He chose the subject of the Adoration of the Magi under the title The Star of Bethlehem, which he had already been asked to produce as a tapestry for Exeter College, Oxford.

There are dozens of preliminary sketches and studies associated with this painting. The original concept was for tapestry; several were executed by Morris & Co, currently located in: National Gallery of South Australia, Castle Museum, Norwich; Eton College Chapel; State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Manchester Metropolitan University, and the original in Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. A preliminary composition sketch is extant (c1887), the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio.