Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Scapegoat - William Holman Hunt (1854)

"Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrow
Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted"

With the words of the Prophet Isaiah on its gilt frame, Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt sent this image into the world.

Even Hunt's admirers in general and those of the painting in particular are divided over it. Hunt visited the Holy Land in 1854. He shows the goat bearing the sins of the community -- as per Leviticus 16 -- in the form of the red wool upon its head. In the barrens near the Dead Sea its doom is clear, expelled and alone.

Art historian Christopher Wood writes, "To lavish such time and labour on such an unpromising subject may seem to have been misguided, but it is an extraordinary powerful image, set in one of the most macabre and eerie landscapes in English art."

"...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed" -- Isaiah 53:5

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