© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Hunt’s painting is the first of three versions of this unusual subject, which has its origins in the biblical narrative of the Flight into Egypt. When the final painting was exhibited, the artist provided an explanatory pamphlet. King Herod, threatened by the newborn “King of the Jews,” ordered the slaughter of all male infants in Bethlehem. Here the fleeing Holy Family is enveloped by “the embodied spirits of the martyred Innocents.” The infant directly below the Christ child displays his torn garment, a prefiguration of the wound in Christ’s side at the Crucifixion. “Airy globes” display Jewish dreams of the union of heaven and earth at the advent of the Messiah. In the largest bubble one can make out the sleeping figure of a patriarch with a “ladder or pathway up and down, which is traversed by the servants of God.”

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.195
People
William Holman Hunt, British (London, England 1827 - 1910 London, England)
Frame by M. Grieve Co.
Title
The Triumph of the Innocents
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1870-1903
Culture
British
Location
Level 2, Room 2130, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Pre–Raphaelites and Their Legacy
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
75.3 x 126 cm (29 5/8 x 49 5/8 in.)
framed: 92.4 x 142.9 x 6.7 cm (36 3/8 x 56 1/4 x 2 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l. 18 WHH 70-6
  • exhibition label: back of canvas, paper, printed and handwritten: [printed:] Exhibition of work / by W. Holman Hunt, / Held at the / City Art Gallery, / Manchester, 1906. / Lender: [handwritten:] Sydney Morse, Esq. No. 42
  • exhibition label: back of canvas, paper, printed and handwritten: Corporation of Liverpool / Walker Art Gallery / Holman Hunt Exhibition, 1907 / No. [handwritten in pencil:] 9
  • label: back of canvas, paper, printed: Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd. / no. 9047 / Fine Art Publishers to his Majesty / London / 43 Old Bond Street / Piccadilly, W
  • label: back of canvas, paper, handwritten: "Triumph of the Innocents" / by / W. Holman Hunt O.M. / Belonging to Mrs. Sydney Morse / 14 Airlie Gardens / London
  • label: back of canvas, paper, handwritten: This picture was practically completed 1870 [-] / 1876, it was the original sketch of the two larger / rather different versions. In places / the background was unfinished. It was / completed in 1903. Purchased direct by / Juliet M. Morse from Holman Hunt / At her death, if he desires it the picture / will remain for his life with her Husband / Sydney Morse. At his Death it will / come to her youngest son and his heirs / If he should wish or his heir should wish / to sell it it is to be 1st offered to the National Gallery.
  • inscription: Melissa Katz, conservation intern, transcribes inscription on reverse of painting: This painting was practically completed 1870/1876, it was the original sketch of the 2 larger/ rather different versions. In places/ the background was left unfinished. It was/ completed in 1903. purchased direct by/ Juliet M Morse from Holman Hunt.// At her Death, if he desires, the picture/ will remain for his life with her Husband/ Sydney Morse. At his Death it will/ come to his her youngest son or his heir./ If he should wish or his heir should wish/ to sell it, it should be offered 1st to the National Gallery.
Provenance
Acquired from the artist by Juliet M. (Mrs. Sydney) Morse, London, 1903; to Esmond Morse (her son) [her sale, Christie's, London, March 9, 1937 , part of no. 63 (bought in by Esmond Morse)], sold; to [Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, June 11, 1937], sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop [through Martin Birnbaum], New York, NY, June 11, 1937, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.195
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

John Ruskin, "Realistic Schools of Painting", The Art of England, Lectures given in Oxford..., Lecture I (Orpington, Kent, England, 1884), pp. 277-78

William Holman Hunt, Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures by Holman Hunt., exh. cat. (London, England, 1886), pp. 2-4

[Unidentified article], Liverpool Daily Post (January 15, 1891), p. 6, p. 6

Sir Wyck Bayliss, Five Great Painters of the Victorian Era (London, England, 1902), p. 120

William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (New York, NY and London, England, 1905-1906), vol. II, pp. 298, 317, 324, repr. facing p. 327

Sir William B. Richmond, Catalogue of an exhibition of the collected works of W. Holman Hunt, exh. cat., Leicester Galleries and Ernest, Brown & Phillips (London, England, 1906), p. 24

Gabriel Mourey, D. -G. Rossetti et les Preraphaelites anglais, H. Laurens (Paris, France, 1909), p. 52; 61

William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (London, 1913), vol. 2, pp. 235-236, 253, 254, repr.

Illustrated Catalogue of the Permanent Collection, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (Liverpool, England, 1927), p. 100

Sir Charles (C. J.) Holmes, Old Masters and Modern Art (New York, NY, 1927), vol. III, p. 226

Catalogue of the British School, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (London, England, 1929), p. 166-167

Charles Johnson, English Painting from the Seventh Century to the Present Day, Dial Press (New York, NY, 1932), p. 251

Alfred Charles Gissing, William Holman Hunt, A Biography (London, England, 1936), pp. 177-185,195

Robert Rey, "Les Préraphaélites", La Renaissance (1938-1939), vol. XXI, p. 22

William Gaunt, The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy, Harcourt, Brace and Co. (New York, NY, 1942), pp. 179-184

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1946), no. 48, p. 53

Diana Holman-Hunt, My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves, H. Hamilton (London, 1969), p. 14

Carol le Brun Danikian, "Early French Symbolists", Boston Herald American (January 28 1973)

Lee Sheridan, "'French Symbolist Art' Timely Museum Exhibit", Springfield Daily News (February 1973)

Ann Philips, "When Women Were 'Blessed Damsels'", Cambridge Chronicle (January 25 1973)

Denys Sutton, "The Pursuit of Beauty", Apollo (June 1978), vol. CVII, no. 196, pp. 446-452, p. 448, fig. 6

George P. Landow, William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 1979), no. 78, p. XV; 126ff for discussion of subject

Quentin Bell, A New and Noble School: The Pre-Raphaelites, MacDonald (London, England, 1982), p. 115

Marc Rolnik, "Hunt's Pictorial Unity, 1870-1905", Ladies of Shalott: A Victorian Masterpiece and its Contents, Brown University Department of Art (Providence RI, 1985), repr. b/w fig. 28, p. 42, and text

Kathryn A. Smith, "The Post-Raphaelite Sources of Pre-Raphaelite Painting", The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies (May 1985), vol. V, no. 2, p. 45; repr. 11

James Coombs, ed., A Pre-Raphaelite Friendship: The Correspondence of William Holman Hunt and John Lucas Tupper (Ann Arbor, MI, 1986), pp. 150, 204

Mark Aronson, "Trial and Error: Further Notes on the Materials and Techniques of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1986), Unpublished, pp. 1-28 passim

Mary Bennett, Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle: The First Generation (London, 1988), pp. 87-88, 89, repr. as fig. 36

Mark Cole, "A Haunting Portrait by William Holman Hunt", The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH, December 1990), p. 355, fig. 1

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 111; repr. as no. 87

Dr. Béatrice Laurent, "Vision and Apocryphal Re-Vision in William Holman Hunt's "Truimph of the Innocents", The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies. New Series 9 (Fall 2000), Pp. 37-50

Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), pp. 100-101, cat. #17, repr.; repr. p. 41 as fig. 7

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), no. 175, pp. 394-395, repr. in color

Christopher Riopelle, Harvard's Winthrop Collection: Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery Company Limited (London, 2003), p. 16, cat. 3, ill.

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 175, pp. 406-407, repr. in color

Dr. Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (New Haven CT and London, 2006), no. 116, pp. 223-225, repr. in color; pp. 46, 47, 238

Carol Jacobi, William Holman Hunt: Painter, Painting, Paint, Manchester University Press (Manchester, England, New York, 2006), pp. 139-140, back of painting ill. p. 139, fig. 6.2, detail plate 24,

Marcia R. Pointon, Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2009), pp. 143-144, pl. 172

Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2016), vol. 2, p. 28

Exhibition History

Exhibition of the Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., Leicester Galleries, London, 10/06/1906 - 11/17/1906

The Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, 12/03/1906 - 01/27/1907

Collective Exhibition of the Art of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Liverpool, 02/02/1907 - 03/02/1907

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/08/1946 - 06/01/1946

Pre-Raphaelite and Early French Symbolist Art in the Fogg Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/16/1973 - 02/25/1973

The Pre-Raphaelites: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/04/1980 - 07/15/1980

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Centennial Exhibition from the Harvard Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 07/12/1982 - 09/11/1982

Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2130 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu