Holman Hunt worked on this between 1870 and 1873, on his second trip to the Holy Land. It shows Jesus as a young man, taking a break from his carpenter work, which he is doing with his mother, Mary. This painting is replete with details, as I have come to expect from my probable favourite artist (sorry Henri√ętte Ronner-Knip). See the painting below.

Mary is kneeling, fetching something from a box. The eagle-eyed among you will spot the Magi’s gifts in this box, which she has kept from the birth of Jesus. We have just celebrated Epiphany within the Church, a feast where we celebrate the Magi came to Jesus and offered him gifts of frankincense gold and myrrh. The first to celebrate his divinity, the second to celebrate his kingship and the third foreshadowing his death. To emphasise this, the painting casts a shadow onto the rack of tools behind our Lord, giving the distinct impression his shadow is being crucified. This is an electrifying painting. We do not know much of the hidden years of Christ’s life. Several of the Gospels do not mention his childhood, and Luke’s Gospel stops at the finding of Jesus in the temple, which I covered in another post. This is a rare insight or impression of what Christ might have been up to in the years leading up to his ministry, which he began aged thirty.

The level of detail is astonishing. From the fabrics, to the skin tones, to the discarded red bandana signifying the crown of thorns Christ was to wear – all of these and more than I have the bandwidth to write about at the moment. John Everett Millais did a similar painting called Christ in the House of his Parents, which I shall cover in a separate post, because it is beautiful.

This painting was criticised as theatrical by some while it was first exhibited, but I think it is a masterpiece. It is grand and somehow reverent, pensive and remarkably detailed. Our Lord’s death and resurrection is at the very centre of our faith. It was foretold in the old testament and indeed by the wise men during their visit. To see it foreshadowed in such vivid detail here, is quite moving to me. I hope it is as moving to you.