From the Oxford Mail: Memorial to a Pre-Raphaelite Stunner

The beauty of an Oxford “stunner” will be celebrated for all time – following the unveiling of a plaque in her honour.

The blue plaque marks the site of the former slum where Jane Burden was born in 1839.

Jane, wife of the artist, poet and designer William Morris, became the 19th century equivalent of a pin-up girl, after posing as Queen Guinevere in the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and others.

The plaque was unveiled in St Helen’s Passage, which leads from New College Lane to the Turf Tavern, in Oxford city centre.

With her striking looks and piercing blue eyes, Jane became the face of what was known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – and earned the nickname “stunner”.

The painters spotted her in the crowd at an Oxford theatre in 1857. She agreed to model for their murals in the Oxford Union and soon became their muse.

Eda Forbes, of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, said Jane – who was the daughter of a stableman – was “more than a beautiful face”.

After marrying Morris at St Michael’s Church in Cornmarket in 1859, at the age of 20, Jane became an important figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Ms Forbes added: “We were keen that the plaque referred to her personal achievement. She was a brilliant, very accomplished embroiderer.”

Her work hangs at Kelmscott Manor near Faringdon, which, according to a biography of Jane, was leased so that she and Rosetti, with whom she had an affair, could use it as a “love-nest”.

The plaque was unveiled by Jan Marsh, president of the William Morris Society and writer of a biography about Jane and her daughter May.

Memorial to pre-raphaelite stunner

By George Gaynor, Oxford Mail

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One Reply to “From the Oxford Mail: Memorial to a Pre-Raphaelite Stunner”

  1. I was very excited to read your blog about the Jane Burden plaque. My musical, POSSESSED, about Jane Burden’s relationship with Morris and Rossetti is being showcased at the Oxford Playhouse in 2008.

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