Dimensions: H 29", W 25.5"

Keywords: Evelyn De Morgan, allegorical painting, Symbolism, English history, Queen Eleanor, Rosamund, mistress, King Henry II, Labyrinthus, maze, stained glass window, poison, thread, dragons, apes, blood red roses, cherubs, doves of peace

Dates: 1880-1919

Marks / Inscriptions: Signature, painted, lower right: "EDeM"


Rosamund was the mistress of Henry II, who built a house for her at Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Legends say that he tried to keep her safe by installing her in a house called Labyrinthus, which was in effect a maze. But Queen Eleanor found her way through by using a thread and poisoned her. The maze can be seen through the door behind the Queen. The stained glass window above Rosamund shows two lovers in an embrace. The Queen carries a small flask of poison, plus the thread that has led her through the maze. She brings with her shadowy evil forms – dragons, apes, and blood red roses lie at her feet. In contrast, winged cherubs and shadowy doves of peace accompany Rosamund and white roses, symbolising purity and innocence, lie at her feet. Rosamond stares at the flask of poison held by the Queen, recognising her doom.

Note - this legend makes an attractive picture, but is contradicted by historical fact. Henry imprisoned Queen Eleanor from1174-1189 for supporting the rebellion of two of her sons against their father. Rosamund entered a nunnery in 1174 or 1176 and died there in 1176. At the time of Rosamund’s death, Queen Eleanor was a prisoner in Winchester.
Related work in the collection:  'Study of seated female nude for 'Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund'  (D_EDM_0132)

Object Location: De Morgan Collection Storage