OIL PAINTING: The Beguiling of Merlin, 1873-1874
Burne-Jones had used Malory's text for early versions of the subject such as the 1861 watercolour of Merlin and Nimue in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In this version Nimue escaped the attentions of an infatuated Merlin by luring him to his doom under an enchanted stone from which he could not escape. However, for this later work at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Burne-Jones used a passage of text from the late medieval French 'Romance of Merlin' as his inspiration for The Beguiling of Merlin. In this story Nimue is very much more of a femme fatale figure. She beguiles and lures a powerless Merlin to his fate as they walk together in the forest of Broceliande. She is described as having snakes entwined in her hair just like the monstrous figure of classical mythology, Medusa, who turned those who looked at her to stone.