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The Triumph of the Innocents

William Holman Hunt, Between 1876 and 1887

WAG 2115

About this object

Mary and the infant Christ on the donkey are being led on their nocturnal flight to Egypt by Joseph. They are fleeing from the massacre of all the male babies in Bethlehem organised by King Herod in his attempt to murder the infant Jesus. The souls of these babies, the Holy Innocents, accompany the Holy Family drawn along by mystic bubbles representing Jewish confidence in ultimate salvation. The large bubble includes Jacob’s dream, the Adoration of the Lamb and the Tree of Life.

Hunt was inspired by his personal experience of contemporary Palestine particularly in the principal figures, in the donkey and in the background, but he combines this with an original and erudite symbolism intended to re-interpret the Bible for late Victorian England.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    William Holman Hunt (British: English, born:02 April 1827, died:07 September 1910)
  • Date
    Between 1876 and 1887
  • Materials
    Oil; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 157.5 cm x 247.7 cm
  • Physical description
    The Holy Family are shown in flight at night from Bethlehem to Egypt. Mary is sitting on a donkey carrying the infant Jesus whilst Joseph leads the donkey. Surrounding them are the spirits of the recently deceased boys murdered by Herod's soldiers. The group is carried along by mystical 'waves' and 'bubbles'.
  • Related people
    William Holman Hunt (Artist/maker, previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 2115
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery from the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition with the aid of contributions collected by Harold Rathbone in 1891
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 08
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • William Holman Hunt

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1891
    Disposal method: Sold to Walker Art Gallery


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: 76 Whh (monogram) 87
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note: Initials and date
    Inscription location: Front; Lower left
Object view = Fine Art
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