Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (English, 1833–1898)
179 x 63.5 cm (70 1/2 x 25 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Corridor at Foot of Fenway Staircase (149)
Hope, one of the three theological Virtues, is symbolized here as a prisoner chained indoors, holding a branch of apple blossoms and reaching upward to pull the blue sky down toward her. The slender, vertical format of this painting recalls the fact that many of Burne-Jones’s designs were successfully translated into stained-glass windows and textiles. Burne-Jones painted this work for Mrs. Whitin, of Whitinsville, Massachusetts. He had previously worked on a large watercolor version of the same subject.
Lower right: E:BURNE:JONES: / Finished 1896:
1896, Mrs. George Marston Whitin (Catharine Whitin Lasell) (b. 1856), Whitinsville, MA (original commission) [see note 1]; by descent to her daughters, Mrs. Laurence Murray Keeler (Elizabeth Klock Whitin, b. 1880), Mrs. Sydney Russell Mason (Elsa Whitin, b. 1884), Mrs. Elijah Kent Swift (Katharine Leland Whitin, b. 1887), and Mrs. William Carey Crane (Lois Haven Whitin, b. 1896), Whitinsville; 1940, gift of Mrs. Laurence Murray Keeler, Mrs. Sydney Russell Mason, Mrs. Elijah Kent Swift and Mrs. William Carey Crane to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 14, 1940)
 Edward Burne-Jones had been commissioned by Mrs. Whitin, through Christine Barrington, an intermediary, to paint a dancing figure. A letter from Ms. Barrington to Mrs. Whitin (July 29, 1896; typed transcript in the MFA curatorial file) indicates that by mid-1896, work on the commission was proceeding poorly. She wrote: "This picture that he is at now is the figure of 'Hope' (oils of course) 'a girl [I quote from him now] in prison, reaching up one hand, and pulling the blue sky down to her. Flowers are springing up between the stone flags of her cell, and a branch of apple tree is in full blossom in her other hand. Will you let me know if this will be liked, and I will go on with it quickly, and undertake to finish it within the year.' " A letter from Ms. Barrington to Mrs. Whitin (September 9, 1896) confirms her acceptance of his offer for the painting of Hope; correspondence from 1897 between Mrs. Whitin and the artist discusses shipment and payment.
Given in memory of Mrs. George Marston Whitin by her four daughters, Mrs. Laurence Murray Keeler, Mrs. Sydney Russell Mason, Mrs. Elijah Kent Swift and Mrs. William Carey Crane