Learning Resources

The Return of the Dove to the Ark

Painted by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896)

Oil on canvas
88.2 x 54.9 cm

In 1850, Millais began work on an ambitious painting of The Deluge, known from descriptions in letters to Combe and from a drawing in the British Museum. His eventual painting, which is not the sermon he had at first envisaged, is much less rhetorical. The subject is from Genesis, 8: 11: in order to ascertain whether the flood had abated, Noah sent out a dove, which returned with a sprig of olive. Here, the daughters of Noah hold the dove and the olive sprig. Although the background is untypically dark, the details are painted with astonishing fidelity and Ruskin so admired the work that he tried to buy it when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851. It had already been sold to Combe in March. Its new owner hung it on one side of Holman Hunt's The Converted British Family, with Collins's Convent Thoughts on the other. The frame is original and includes elements appropriate to the painting: olive leaves and fruit.

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