The Triumph of the Innocents William Holman Hunt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Triumph of the Innocents was a painting of Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaping to Egypt when King Herod ordered the killing of the firstborn males all over Bethlehem. These infants were the innocents as described in the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18.

His initial painting was originally intended to show the Holy Family but later decided that it is good that he martyred innocents are also included in his work. In the image, the Holy family is surrounded by the bubbles, which are also called airy globes that conveys a feeling of the eternal lifestreams in the procession with the holy family. Each of the globes is enveloped by the sacred light. In the catalog, he said Jesus, as the infant recognized the martyred infants just as the mother was preparing for the escape as they were awakened in their spiritual form. The artist, Hunt, got inspired to paint the images when he visited the Holy land in the late 1870s. His painting was done with oil on a canvas medium. This image was presented by Sir John Middlemore Bt in 1918.

The Triumph of the Innocents was one of the more modern works by the painter as it opened a new dimension in the way he presented traditional Christian themes. Just before he did the painting in around 1184 he had praised the Last Judgement painting by Orcagna, and both the Paradise and Last Judgement paintings by Fra Angelico. In his statement, Hunt said that these were nothing but unmixed good that would accrue from the paintings. He added to say that any scenes that show the holy bible and heaven were not just pieces of art but real visions of real things perfectly set down and more good will be got by dwelling on them.

Finally, he added that the statement was also true about Christ representations as a living presence among people in the world. With these remarks, he later switched to his visionary mode for the painting of the Triumph of the Innocents. Hunt had earlier been part of the artists who advocated for archeologically correct realism, a concept that showed historical events in great detail. In this image, he tries to combine the earlier thinking with the vision of the afterlife and bring great effects on both. He would continue with this new way of painting in his works on the Resurrection which showed the life after Christ resurrection.