The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple by William Holman Hunt
Accession number: 1896P80
Date: 1854 – 1855
The biblical account of Jesus found in the temple at the feast of Passover records that on being reunited with him: ‘they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing’ (Luke 2:48). Depicting Joseph and Mary with their arms around the shoulders of their son Holman Hunt emphasizes the concern of the parents, contrasting the intimate moment of a family together with the presence of the ‘doctors’ and other religious men in the ornate setting of the temple.
In this way Holman Hunt’s oil painting differs from that of Heinrich Hofmann’s 1881 oil painting Christ in the Temple now in the Galerie Neue Meister in Dresden which simply shows Jesus surrounded by the elders of the temple. Moreover, by depicting the interior of the temple, Holman Hunt is able to add the figure of the man seated on the temple steps with his outstretched hand. The presence of the beggar arguably foreshadows or anticipates the later encounters with beggars in Christ’s ministry, such as the blind beggar Bartimaeus who was healed: ‘Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole’ (Mark 10:52). It reminds the viewer of the future teaching of the young Jesus. The Victorian web describes how all ‘the details of The Finding of the Saviour in The Temple focus upon Christ and his mission’ and notes that ‘the blind beggar who sits at the temple porch prefigures one of Christ’s miracles – the restoration of sight to the blind’.