December 1st: Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais

Christ in the House of His Parents
Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop) by John Everett Millais, 1849-50. Tate Britain, London. Photo via

Happy December First and welcome to A Scholarly Skater’s first-ever Advent Calendar! When I was little, I really loved Advent calendars. I so much looked forward to opening the next little door every morning and finding a sticker, figurine, or something else. Between now and Christmas, you can look forward to a different Christmas, holiday, or winter-themed work of art every day.

For the first day of December, I’ve chosen Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais’s 1850 painting Christ in the House of His Parents. This painting is a seemingly-straightforward, if highly-detailed and a bit sentimental, representation of a working-class family. Little symbolic touches like Mary’s blue dress and the wound on young Christ’s hand point to the work’s religiosity. However, Millais’s un-idealized depiction of Christ and His family as realistic, lower-class laborers was shocking and revolting to mid-nineteenth century British audiences. Christ in the House of His Parents is on permanent display at the Tate in London. Read more about the painting on the Tate’s website.

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