After the painting in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, a prose translation of the medieval French poem, was first printed in 1485 and became the main source in English of the legends surrounding King Arthur. Burne-Jones first came across this text in a Birmingham bookshop in 1855 and thereafter returned again and again to Arthurian subjects. In this painting the wizard Merlin has fallen in love with Nimue, 'a lady of the lake', whom he taught some magic. She soon tired of him and lured him under a rock, from which even his magic could not effect an escape. Burne-Jones depicts the stone in the form of a gravestone, which rises under Nimue's spell, drawing Merlin inexorably towards the gaping tomb that awaits him. Fanny Cornforth modelled the figure of Nimue.