This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex (see black and white image). Several further versions were woven later. Birmingham's 'Arming and Departure' is one of three tapestries commissioned in 1895 by the industrialist Laurence Hodson, for his house Compton Hall near Wolverhampton.The subject matter is based on the 15th century text Le Morte D'Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. It tells the story of the spiritual quest by the knights of King Arthur's round table for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper. Here the second scene depicts the virgin ladies of King Arthur's Court assisting the knights in preparation for their quest. On the far left, Queen Guinevere hands Sir Lancelot his shield, in an allusion to their adulterous relationship, the cause of Sir Lancelot's impending failure. Sir Gawaine, who will also fail in the quest, appears mounted on the right of the picture, identified by his shield, which bears a double-headed eagle.Burne-Jones based the costumes loosely on those of the twelfth century. Throughout the series Morris designed the heraldry, and Dearle designed the flowers in the foreground.

  • Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1907.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Designer Sir Edward Burne-Jones -
Designer William Morris -
Designer John Henry Dearle -
Manufacturer - Morris & Co


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
The Holy Grail Tapestries
T11 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 1981 - 1981
Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer
147 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1998-06-04 - 1998-09-06
147 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1999-10-17 - 1999-01-17
147 Musée d'Orsay, Paris 1999-03-01 - 1999-06-06
Common Threads
- Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery 2002-07-01 - -


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
The Holy Grail Tapestries
A B Bence-Jones 1895 unpublished, Victoria & Albert Museum -
Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones
Lady Georgiana Burne-Jones 1904 Macmillan, London Vol. II, p. 208
William Morris
Linda Parry 1996 Victoria & Albert Museum, London p. 232
Christopher Wood 1998 Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London p. 116
Pre-Raphaelites and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection
Nicholas Tromans 2003 Royal Academy of Arts, London pp. 242-243

Associated people

Name Type
Laurence Hodson Commissioned by
Sir Thomas Malory Author

Associated places

Name Type
Compton Hall, Wolverhampton Made for

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