Tree of Forgiveness

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This painting by Edward Burne-Jones is another wonderful example of Pre-Raphaelite art which can be seen in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool. The painting takes as its theme a classical myth. Phyllis fell in love with Demophoon but he went away adventuring, as Greek heroes did, for so long that she lost hope and killed herself. The gods took pity on her and turned her into an almond tree. When Demophoon eventually returned, he embraced the tree in a fit of remorse, and as the tree burst into flower, Phyllis, taking on human form again, emerged from the trunk of the tree; she forgave him and they were reunited. The intensity of the lovers’ facial expression and their gaze into each other’s eyes convey deep feelings of love and joy at their reconciliation, their physicality and the tree in full bloom give more than a hint of sexual longing and passion. I’ve seen it for myself, it is striking, beautiful and memorable, and is a fitting image for a grey back-to-work-after-holidays Monday!

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