Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Burne-Jones’s beloved daughter, Margaret, who embodied the artist’s ideal of beauty, was the model for this painting. The Latin title refers to the Vestal Virgins of Rome, who tended the perpetual fire on the altar of the goddess Vesta. Begun before her marriage in 1888 to John William Mackail, the painting aligns Margaret with these chaste women, suggesting her innocence and purity. The painting is reminiscent of a Renaissance portrait; the sitter’s pose may have been inspired by a celebrated stone relief of Saint Cecilia attributed in the nineteenth century to the sculptor Donatello.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Edward Burne-Jones, British (Birmingham, England 1833 - 1898 London, England)
Flamma Vestalis
Work Type
19th century
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2710, North Arcade
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
68 x 46.4 cm (26 3/4 x 18 1/4 in.)
framed: 96.2 x 74.6 x 5.4 cm (37 7/8 x 29 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: File notes inscription on back: From collection of Sir William Richmond to whom 'twas presented by the artist in exchange for a portrait of Miss Burne-Jones which was begun in 1884 but not completed for a long time. [Back of canvas is covered with a cardboard strainer 7/94 and no inscriptions are visible, 1994.]
Sir William B. Richmond, by descent (?); to Rear Admiral A. W. Richmond. [Scott & Fowles, New York], sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, 1922 [via Martin Birnbaum], bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

New Gallery, Exhibition of the Works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, exh. cat., New Gallery (London, England, 1898 - 1899), no. 64

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1946), no. 28, p. 42

David H. Dickason, The Daring Young Men: The Story of the American Pre-Raphaelites, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN, 1953), p. 255

Martin Harrison and Bill Waters, Burne-Jones, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY, 1973), p. 193

Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography, Michael Joseph, Ltd. (London, England, 1975), pp. 198-199

Mark Aronson, "Trial and Error: Further Notes on the Materials and Techniques of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1986), Unpublished, pp. 1-28 passim

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 100-101, repr. as no. 63

Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), pp. 198-199, cat. #58, color repr.

Phillip Prodger, Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery (London, 2018), p. 167, fig. 29

Exhibition History

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/08/1946 - 06/01/1946

Pre-Raphaelite and Early French Symbolist Art in the Fogg Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/16/1973 - 02/25/1973

The Pre-Raphaelites: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/04/1980 - 07/15/1980

Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2710 North Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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Related Works

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