The Shadow of Death


 The Shadow of Death. William Holman Hunt. 1851-53

The Shadow of Death was painted with Holman Hunt´s (born in Kensington) characteristic almost obsessive attention to details which gives the painting a very contemporary look yet with a classic motif. He has draw attention from both the East and the West and after a thorough analysis it is hard to make out whether Holman Hunt wanted to depict a Eastern looking Christ or not, or simply one that would appeal to a wider audience. An art piece that would stimulate both the intellectual and the spiritual just like Dickens he wanted a mass audience[1]. So what is really orientalist about this art piece? How can we argue that this is an orientalist work without knowing what Orientalism is? Some might argue that Orientalism starts in your mind, rather than actual physical evidence of something existing.

Surely this is what Holman Hunt experienced on his travels and in his artistic career; he found a source of inspiration within a state of mind, filled with fiction, exoticism and prejudice. Although we can argue that the wave of westerners traveling to the East in the 19th century had intention of dominating the East and being the superior power, their minds were still full of fascination for the Orient. Orientalism as a theory began within this fascination and prejudice, within the classifying of ‘the Other’, by created the Orient and Occident. By making yourself the intellectually dominant westerner there is only a limited amount of tolerance.


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