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 version of The Ship was woven for Mrs Middlemore, wife of the Birmingham leather manufacturer Thomas Middlemore, and bequeathed to the Museum in 1947. 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. This design links the figurative scenes together. The story tells how the knights travelled by ship for part of their journey to Sarras, where the Holy Grail was to be discovered.Ships were often used in medieval stories as important narrative devices, to transport characters from one scene or world to another. Burne-Jones drew studies for this design using scale models.

  • Presented by Miss Evangeline Middlemore, 1947.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


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


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Holy Grail Tapestries
T13 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1981-01-01 - 1981-01-01
Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer
149 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1998-06-04 - 1998-09-06
149 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1998-10-17 - 1999-01-17
149 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 1903 Macmillan, London Vol. II: p. 209
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
Mrs Mary Middlemore Commissioned by
Sir Thomas Malory Author

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