The Light of the World (painting)

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The Light of the World

The Light of the World (1851–3) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject."[1] The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind".[2] Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism.[3]


The original, painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford.[4][5] Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul's Cathedral, London, after a world tour where the picture drew large crowds. Due to Hunt's increasing infirmity, he was assisted in the completion of this version by English painter Edward Robert Hughes. A third smaller version of the painting is on display at Manchester City Art Gallery, painted by Hunt between 1851 and 1856.


This painting inspired much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Sir Arthur Sullivan's 1873 oratorio The Light of the World.[3]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Forbes, Christopher (December 2001), "Images of Christ In Nineteenth-Century British Paintings In The Forbes Magazine Collection", Magazine Antiques, 160 (6): 794 .
  2. ^ Hunt, WH (1905), Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1, London: Macmillan, p. 350 
  3. ^ a b Light, The Victorian Web .
  4. ^ Hunt 1905, pp. 299–300.
  5. ^ Dalton, Nick (21 August 2012). Frommer's England and the Best of Wales. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 349–. ISBN 978-1-118-33137-8. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Barnes, Julian (2006), Arthur & George (Advance Reader's ed.), New York: Alfred A. Knoph, p. 55 .
    • The only decoration (apart from a God is love' banner) in the African American church Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to in "To Kill a Mockingbird" Harper Lee.

Further reading[edit]

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