Let me begin by explaining some of the reasons why I chose the St Luke design by Edward Burne-Jones as the home-page image for StainedGlassPhotography.

Firstly it is one of my favourite images. I cannot totally explain all the reasons why I find it so appealing because it is a combination of colouring and form but suffice it to say that I like it very much. In addition it is one of the very first pictures of stained glass that I took in this way, that is to say as a detail and not the entire window.

Now I have always referred to this image as “The Scribe” because St Luke is depicted as writing and it strikes me as entirely appropriate that this image should be presented at the entrance to what is in a very real sense a library, albeit a library of pictures.

According to Sewter this design was first used for Jesus College Chapel in Cambridge in 1872. The design was by Edward Burne-Jones and is described as ‘full length standing figure right foot raised, book on knee’. Burne-Jones recorded a fee of 15 pounds for the design. The original cartoon is in the Tate Gallery.

This design was used several times after Jesus College. The first was in Newport in 1874, then Speldhurst in 1875 followed by Lanercost Priory in 1877 and St. Martin’s in Brampton in 1881. Other recorded uses include Edgebaston (1923), Cheadle Congregational (1911), Cheadle Royal (1911), Frome (1892) and St. Mary’s Wandsworth (1928).

Turning next to Maria Zambaco, she first met Burne-Jones in 1866 when he was commissioned by her mother to paint her portrait. Maria was a member of an important and wealthy Greek family who had left Greece to escape Turkish persecution. She was married to a Dr Zambaco and lived with him in Paris but she left him and moved to London with her two children.

Sometime following their meeting in 1866 Burne-Jones and Zambaco began having an affair which appears to have lasted until 1871 or 1872 during which time her face appears in a number of his paintings and I am of the opinion that she was the model on which the St. Luke design is based.

I am basing my contention not only on a close facial resemblence but also upon strong similarities between the hands of Maria as depicted in the 1870 portrait of her by Burne-Jones and the hands of St. Luke which have the same, unusually long and slender, fingers.

This portrait of Maria with Cupid is from 1870



Note the hands and that unusually long index-finger


Now look at her eyes, nose and mouth.


This is the Lanercost Priory St. Luke from 1877


This version from Brampton dates from 1881


I will leave it to you to form your own opinion but I am in no doubt that the figure of St. Luke which the parishioners in Lanercost Priory have been admiring for the last 125 years is none other than Maria Zambaco and she looks very beautiful indeed. The version which is to be found in St Martin’s church in Brampton is, to me, a great disappointment. The colouring lacks the subtlety of the earlier use of the design and many of the fine details from the original versions have been lost.

P. Neil Ralley, April 7, 2002

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