The Light of the World

William Holman Hunt, 1827 - 1910

The Light of the World

William Holman Hunt 1827 - 1910


Painting in the shape of an arched doorway. Standing at a wooden doorway with rusted hinges and overgrown with ivy and weeds, in an orchard, is the forward-facing, full figure of Christ wearing a crown entwined with the thorns of the Passion, now covered with leaves. The light of his halo is in contrast to the blue dusk visible through the branches of the background trees. Over a plain robe, he wears a jewelled cloak (or pallium) clasped across the chest with a jewelled brooch. With his right hand he knocks at the disused door; in his left hand he carries a lantern, which throws light on to his robes and the doorway, and casts a warm glow across his face and his right hand. In the foreground are scattered apples from the surrounding fruiting trees and the lights of glow-worms. The painting is an exploration of the Biblical text, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Taken from Revelations, iii, 20. The frame is rectangular, gilded and decorated with a border of flower heads in roundels.

Display Label

Gallery text panel The Pre-Raphaelites in their Time Britain's first and best-known radical art movement emerged from within the Royal Academy in 1848. Its original members were rebellious art students who were disillusioned with contemporary practice. They looked back to Italian art before Raphael, seeing the pre-1500 period as one of great sincerity. They called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In an age of rapid industrial and urban expansion, Pre-Raphaelite artists like Rossetti, Hunt and Millais, and pioneering design reformers such as William Morris, sought a return to pre-industrial values of art and design in truth to nature and materials, and good workmanship. In addition, the arts of the Middle Ages and Middle East were important sources of stylistic inspiration. The Bible, literature and contemporary life were preferred over subjects derived from classical mythology. The Brotherhood also rejected contrived studio lighting and took canvases outside to paint directly from nature. Although attempting to convey exactly what they saw, they created a heightened reality of dream-like intensity with minute details and bright, dazzling colours. Their art was a new kind of history painting for a new age.

Object Name

The Light of the World

Creators Name

William Holman Hunt

Date Created



Canvas: 49.8cm x 26.1cm
Frame: 77cm x 54cm

accession number


Place of creation






On Display

[G7] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 7
View all


© Manchester Art Gallery

Fill out my online form.