This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex. Several further versions were woven later. Birmingham's 'The Failure of Sir Gawain' 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 third scene depicts two knights who failed in their quest because they had previously led sinful lives. The story told how after many days of riding they stopped to rest and pray at a deserted chapel, but were told that they could not enter. Sir Uwaine is shown on the left, and Sir Gawaine is nearest the angel, who is barring the entrance to the chapel. A brilliant light shines from within, suggesting the presence of the Holy Grail.The next scene in the series showed the failure of Sir Lancelot, but this subject is not in Birmingham's collection.

  • 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)
Holy Grail Tapestries
T12 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1981 - 1981
Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer
148 Metrpolitan Museum of Art, New York 1998-06-04 - 1998-09-06
148 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1998-10-17 - 1999-01-17
148 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
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 pp. 116-117
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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