'The Passover in the Holy Family'

A family in a garden with a cross

Watercolour on paper, painted 1854-5, 40.6 x 43.2cm, Tate. Presented by Charles Ricketts in memory of Henry Michael Field, 1916

To celebrate Passover, every Jewish household slaughtered a lamb and marked the doorposts with its blood. This was a sign for the Lord to pass over and not visit the plague on them. The Passover meal of roast lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread was to be eaten in haste, with shoes on the feet ready for quick departure.

Rossetti shows Jesus and his parents preparing for the ritual. This stresses the continuity between Judaism and Christianity, linking Christ's sacrifice with that of the Passover lamb.

Here Rossetti shows Zachariah marking the door with blood from a bowl held by Jesus. John kneels to fasten Jesus's sandal and Mary stoops to gather bitter herbs.