Sudley House Gallery – Collection highlight – October, 2007
‘Finding of the Saviour in the Temple’, by William Holman Hunt
About the artwork
There are two inscriptions on William Holman Hunt’s ‘The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple’. The first is straightforward. On the ivory slip between picture and frame is the title and some lines of scripture from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter II verses 48-49: ‘and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? whist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’
The other inscription is in the body of the picture itself. On the temple door, in Hebrew and in Latin, is a verse from the Old Testament book of Malachi prophesying the New Testament story recounted by Luke. It translates as ‘And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple.’
‘The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple’ is a half-size replica of the painting (now in Birmingham City Art Gallery) that Hunt began work on during his first visit to Palestine in 1854-5, an expedition that also produced both versions of The Scapegoat (at the Lady Lever and Manchester City Art Galleries).
The distant landscape on the right of the picture is a view of the Mount of Olives to the north-east of Jerusalem, sketched by the artist from the dome of the As Sakreh mosque just before his departure. The figures of Joseph and most of the elders and Rabbis were drawn from native models. Mary and Jesus, however, were painted back in London from Mrs Frederic Mocatta and a pupil from a Jewish school respectively.
Free gallery talk on 30 October 2007, 13.00