The theme of the Romaunt of the Rose occupied Burne-Jones intermittently for over twenty years. The present painting was begun in 1889 and created as a pendant to the earlier Pilgrim at the Gate of Idleness. Both paintings remained in the studio and were taken up again by the artist in 1892, following a period of illness, and completed in time for the New Gallery exhibition in 1893. Love Leading the Pilgrim (Tate Gallery), the largest ofthe group, was begun in 1877 and finally completed in 1897, the date of its exhibition at the New Gallery.
The three paintings are conceived as a sequence. The first is The Pilgrim at the Gate of Idleness, in which the Pilgrim meets Idleness personified as a beguiling maid. Having escaped that temptation, the Pilgrim is led by Love through a briar thicket, depicted in the Tate Gallery painting. The final scene is represented in the present painting, The Heart of the Rose, where a winged figure, perhaps Love, leads the Pilgrim to the Rose, personified as a beautiful woman within a rose bush.