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Gallery Text

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene is one of 14 illustrations by Hunt for Sir Edwin Arnold’s lengthy poem The Light of the World; or, The Great Consummation, published in 1893. The narrative is based on the biblical scene in which Christ warns the Magdalene not to touch him (“Noli me tangere”), for he had not yet ascended to God. Here, Hunt strikes a balance between Christ’s corporeal strength and humanity and the blinding illumination of his divinity. Originally, Mary Magdalene’s arms were stretched farther, her left forearm visible, and Jesus held the crown of thorns in his left hand, which gave the impression that he was fending off her advances. He now brandishes the crown of thorns above his head, clearly alluding to his martyrdom.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
William Holman Hunt, British (London, England 1827 - 1910 London, England)
Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
Graphite, brown wash, white and pale yellow gouache, and scratchwork on cream wove paper darkened to tan
39.3 x 56.3 cm (15 1/2 x 22 3/16 in.)
frame: 52.7 × 67.3 cm (20 3/4 × 26 1/2 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1946), no. 51

George P. Landow, Shadows Cast by "The Light of the World:" William Holman Hunt's Religious Paintings, 1893-1905, Art Bulletin (September 1983), vol. LXV, no. 3, p. 476

Dr. Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (New Haven CT and London, 2006), no. D412, repr.

Franklin Einspruch, Fuse Visual Art Review: A Pair of Drawing Shows at the Harvard Art Museums, The Arts Fuse ([e-journal], June 9, 2016), http://artsfuse.org/146319/fuse-visual-arts-review-a-pair-of-drawing-shows-at-the-harvard-art-museums/, accessed June 9, 2016

Exhibition History

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

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

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