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William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1910):
A converted British Family sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids

A265; oil on canvas; 111 x 141 cm.

Signed and dated: W. HOLMAN HUNT 1850.

Prov: purchased by William Bennett as a gift for Thomas Combe.

Bequeathed by Thomas Combe, 1893; WA1894.1.

Parris 1984, no. 25; Brown 1987, no. 18.

Originally conceived as an entry on the theme 'An Act of Mercy' for a Gold Medal competition at the Royal Academy in 1849, this painting depicts an early incident in the history of the English church. A Christian family is hiding a priest from a crowd of heathens and Druids, who have already caught another priest in the background. The painting is full of symbolic allusions, in keeping with contemporary High Anglican thinking: the priest recalls Christ and his disciples, the child with the fur loincloth John the Baptist and the older youth squeezing grapes evokes the Eucharist. It was one of Hunt's earliest Pre-Raphaelite paintings and caused controversy when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850.

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Information derived from the Ashmolean Museum's Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings.

Link to the BBC's Your Paintings page of the Public Catalogue Foundation