Eye Candy for Today: Holman Hunt’s Dovecot

The Festival of St Swithin (The Dovecot), William Holman Hunt
The Festival of St Swithin (The Dovecot), William Holman Hunt

Link is to a larger version on The Athenaeum, original is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The version on the Ashmolean site is likely more accurate, I’ve lightened the slightly larger version from the Athenaeum to match it in value.

I usually like to have higher resolution images for these Eye Candy posts, but this is the largest I could find for this work, and I find the painting particularly engaging.

The alternate title of “The Dovecot” (or Dovecote) refers to a small house for domestic pigeons; the reference to the holiday is likely just to place the time of year the painting was to represent.

The Ashmolean site indicates that Holman Hunt — one of the premiere painters of the Victorian artist group, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood — designed the composition for his sister Emily to paint. She started but then abandoned the project. Holman Hunt finished it himself a year later, calling it the most highly finished painting he had done (which is saying something).

2 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Holman Hunt’s Dovecot”

  1. I’ ve always loved this picture by Hunt. It shows his meticulous technique and mastery of texture at its best. It’s unfortunate that Hunt didn’t paint more pictures in this poetic realist vein rather than those awkward & weird Victorian allegories, on which she devoted so much time .
    I think the Pre-Raphaelites would be even more famous today if they had devoted more time to painting the world they lived in rather than drawing inspiration from books and obscure poems of forgotten poets.
    However one must admire Hunt’s rock sold figures and visionary color palette.
    His painting “the Hireling Shepherd” which you featured once, is still one of my favorite paintings. The color in that painting is stunning. His picture of Palestine & Egypt give a documentary picture of the places in the 19th century.

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