Pelican in her Piety (c.1880)

Pelican in Her Piety
© William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest See license information

This design is a coloured pastel finished drawing from the Morris & Co. East window of St. Martin's Church, Brampton, Cumbria, 1880-1881.  The window's at Brampton are one of Morris & Co's masterpieces. After the windows were complete, Burne-Jones used coloured chalks to transform his design into this highly finished work.

The pelican feeding its young with drops of blood from its breast is a Christian emblem for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The nest sits on top of a highly stylised tree with sinuous curves. In the 20th century, the art historian Nikolaus Pevsner published this design as a precursor of Art Nouveau.