Advent Calendar 2015 · Art History

December 1st: Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais

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John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents, 1849-50, oil on canvas. Tate Britain, London. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Happy December First and welcome to A Scholarly Skater’s first-ever Advent Calendar! When I was little, I really loved Advent calendars. I so much looked forward to opening the next little door every morning and finding a sticker, figurine, or something else. Between now and Christmas, you can look forward to a different Christmas, holiday, or winter-themed work of art every day.

For the first day of December, I’ve chosen Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais’s 1850 painting Christ in the House of His Parents. This painting is a seemingly-straightforward, if highly-detailed and a bit sentimental, representation of a working-class family. Little symbolic touches like Mary’s blue dress and the wound on young Christ’s hand point to the work’s religiosity. However, Millais’s un-idealized depiction of Christ and His family as realistic, lower-class laborers was shocking and revolting to mid-nineteenth century British audiences. Christ in the House of His Parents is on permanent display at the Tate in London. Read more about the painting on the Tate’s website.

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