The Last Judgment
Designer: Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Firm: Morris & Co.
St. Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham
Burne-Jones's Other Windows in the Cathedral
This early eighteenth-century church was extended in 1883-84 by J(ulius) A(lfred) Chatwin (1830-1907), who produced a full new chancel for it. For this, Burne-Jones designed three glorious windows on subjects of his own choosing. Despite the fact that he had complained about the remuneration for this huge task (see Georgiana Burne-Jones, Vol. 2: 172), he undertook this other window later — the equally glorious west window, on the subject of the Last Judgment.
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[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this UR or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on this and the following image for larger pictures.]
The later separate commission was undertaken as a memorial for Bishop Bowlby of Coventry, who was rector here from 1875-92, and who died in 1894 (see Bradley 45). Locally-born Burne-Jones had been baptised in the church, and evidently had a strong attachment to it — as indeed he had to Birmingham itself. [Commentary continues below.]
In the lower part of The Last Judgment, people huddle together anxiously as the Archangel Michael, with spectacular red wings, blows the trumpet. One woman in the middle carries an infant, while her husband holds on to her, and their child child clings to his robe. As Simon Bradley writes generally of these windows, "Colours are vibrant and exciting, with reds and blues predominant; designs are simple and dramatic, with a strong division between upper and lower zones, and with figures of exceptional scale" (45). In this case, red predominates in the upper zone, except in the all-white robes of the seated Jesus, presiding at the top, and in the sky surrounding the principal angel. The darker band that separates the zones represents the earth at this critical time, with toppling buildings clearly visible on the left.
Bradley, Simon. "The Stained Glass." Birmingham, by Andy Foster. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. 45. Print.
Burne-Jones, Georgiana. Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones. New York: Macmillan, 1906. Internet Archive. Web. 4 September 2012.
Last modified 4 September 2012