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Burne-Jones treated the story of Fair Rosamund several times in the early 1860s. According to legend, King Henry II created a hidden chamber for his mistress, Rosamund, at the centre of an elaborate maze. There she was discovered and murdered by her rival, Queen Eleanor. While he was a student at Oxford, Burne-Jones visited Godstowe, the presumed site of Rosamund's grave. But a fresh impetus for his group of pictures came from Swinburne's verse drama of 1860, which enacts the confrontation of Rosamund and the Queen. The circular mirror is derived from one made by Burne-Jones's father, but ultimately from that in Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini marriage portrait in the National Gallery.

August 2004