Burne-Jones, Edward (1833-1898)

The Golden Stairs

1866-80

Oil on canvas

Somewhere from an unknown heaven towards an unknown earth these angels without wings descend the stairs. They do not go upwards desiring heaven, they go downwards in need of the earth, They have to feel that earth to be less ethereal, less spiritual. Heaven is not enough. The virgin has to be initiated , the earth has to be known, children have to be born. The stairs are golden: it is a royal road of loyalty, virtue and glory. There is no shame descending for the matter. The stairs are winding, they are cyclic, just like the real of time they are heading for. Where in heaven did we lose touch with that? That is the question.
277 x 117 cm (109 x 46 in)

Tate Gallery, London

 

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