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Divine Provision and the “Preternatural Imagination” of Edward Burne-Jones in the Mosaics of “The American Church” in Rome

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This essay examines the multiplicity of ways the building and decoration of the American church of St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls in Rome signaled the dawning of a “new age,” politically and spiritually, as the first Protestant church constructed within the city of Rome, initiated immediately after the city was freed from papal rule in 1870. The mosaics, designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and completed with the help of his assistant Thomas Rooke in the decades that follow, present Christ, and the Church in particular, as sources of divine sustenance and verdant life in the barren wilderness of this world. But it is the splendor of their design and the material magnificence of the mosaics themselves that create the first powerful and most lasting impact. Viewed through the lens of what P. T. Forsyth described as the “preternatural imagination” of Burne-Jones, these mosaics are distinctly contemporary works deeply rooted in religious and artistic tradition that address the transitional times for which they were made.

Affiliations: 1: Taylor University


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