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The Triumph of the Innocents Anh Nguyen The Triumph of the Innocents Walker Art Gallery Version, Liverpool By: William Holman Hunt The Story

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The Triumph of the Innocents

Walker Art Gallery Version, Liverpool

By: William Holman Hunt

the story
The Story
  • “Under a starry sky, across the fore-round of an Eastern landscape, passes from left to right a procession composed of the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt, accompanied by the spirits of the newly massacred Innocents in bodily form.”
  • “Hunt depicts the spirits of the slaughtered innocent children entering the afterlife, rewarded for their roles as the first martyrs of Christianity, alongside an image of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt.”

The Triumph of the Innocents

Tate Gallery Version, London

By: William Holman Hunt


Hunt explains that the sphere contains a lamb (symbolic of Christ). In it is the Tree of Life, symbolizing the healing of all nations.

At the far right, a group of infants lead the whole procession. One child has dropped a vine, another is about to throw a palm leaf (traditional symbol of martyrdom) before Christ.

Group of boys bedecked with garlands of flowers and holding spring blossoms. Hunt intended to stress decoration ready for sacrifice.

In the foreground, a solitary boy examines his rent shirt. The death blow on his side has healed.

The jelly-like surface on which the children stand is Hunt's rendering of water continually flowing - 'the stream of eternal life'.

Hunt differentiates the natural and supernatural forces using two sources of light - the family of Jesus and the spirits of the young martyrs.
  • Mary, and Jesus are in a soft light that most likely derives from the natural light of the stars whereas a bright light shines upon each of the martyred innocents, giving an impression of holiness.
  • Hunt uses brighter colors to depict the luxurious clothing of the child spirits while using muted colors to fuse the family with their dark natural surroundings.

Hunt shows that the natural and supernatural forces are meant to be aware of the other's presence by means of the gestures of Jesus and the gaze of Mary. The baby Jesus reaches backwards in the direction of the children with the desire to touch them while Mary observes the actions of the young spirit walking alone.

On the other hand, the innocents appear to be protecting the fleeing family, leading Jesus to a safe destination. Therefore, Hunt ultimately attempts to unite the natural and supernatural.