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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:11

The Pre-Raphaelites and mid-Victorian art

Video transcript

they're walking down the staircase they're holding musical instruments they're not really playing them the horns are held vertically a finger can be seen ready to pluck the harp but isn't quite there is a sense of anticipation we're looking at Edward burne-jones the golden stairs which he began in 1876 and exhibited in 1880 we see a long stream of figures solving musical instruments walking down this winding staircase not just any figures but these young women in these long classist eyes downs in this wonderful Italian invented architecture this is a painting that has no strong colors whatsoever it is very much this set of harmonies of white stuff gold and Silver's but it's also really poetic and evocative and I think that sense of mystery was really important to burne-jones this is a painting that for me is so much about the idea of progression and he's using the visual to create a musical scale we have the stairs functioning almost as a ladder of tone and we have the figures alternating between silvers and gold that kind of patterning that's taking place and of course there's the vocation of music because of the instruments as well but it's this beautiful tight relationship that's being created between the figures and the architecture all of which seems to recall beautiful harmonious sound we get a sense of before and after that they're coming out of a space that we can see at the top laughs there are more figures perhaps that are gonna come down they move down the stairs they walk into this doorway and one figure right at the doorway stops and turns back that does give it a sense of some important passage of time painting is something that we see all at once music is something that takes place over time I think the artist is perhaps thinking about how can a painting exist over time in the way that music does to possible titles for this before it was titled the golden stairs were the kings music and music on the stairs and that idea of the Kings music makes me think that music for a royal court and almost even reminds me of the Angels in Van I can't altarpiece playing the music of heaven there's something about the repetition of those figures and the sameness of their faces and the way that they don't exactly communicate with one another that they appear to be in their own world it really gives us a sense of an interior life well there's a play between a solemnity in this painting and also informality the figures seem as if they are otherworldly the British public were used to seeing paintings that showed very specific subjects that they were familiar with from Shakespeare or ancient Greek and Roman mythology or other literary sources in the 1860s we see a move away from that specific subject matter here we have a painting that really has no literary source and is simply evocative in the sense trying to do what music does