The Unmerciful Servant (The Parables of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ)

After Sir John Everett Millais (British, Southampton 1829–1896 London)
Engraved and printed by Dalziel Brothers (British, active 1839–1893)
Wood engraving; proof on India paper
image: 5 1/2 x 4 5/16 in. (13.9 x 10.9 cm)
sheet: 7 5/16 x 6 1/16 in. (18.6 x 15.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1921
Accession Number:
Not on view
It took Millais seven years to design twenty images inspired by New Testament Parables for the Dalziel Brothers, and the resulting prints are considered pinnacles of wood engraved illustration. The artist wrote to his publishers, "I can do ordinary drawings as quickly as most men, but these designs can scarcely be regarded in the same light—each Parable I illustrate perhaps a dozen times before I fix [the image]." After completing a design, Millais transferred it to a woodblock coated with "Chinese" white for skilled engravers to carve. Finally, he reviewed proofs, and final adjustments were made before the final printing.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18: 23-35) tells of a man forgiven a large debt by his master, who then refuses to be merciful to a fellow worker. Millais shows the moment when the outraged master contemplates what punishment the unmerciful man should receive. Pre-Raphaelite ideals shaped Millais's combination of detailed naturalism and down-to-earth imagery to produce a work distinctly different than most religious art of the period.
Vendor: Francis Edwards
Goldman 25 (vi)
Gleeson White English illustration: "the sixties": 1855-70. Archibald Constable & Co., London, 1903, cat. no. 119.

Gregory R. Suriano The Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators: The Published Graphic Art of the English Pre-Raphaelites and Their Associates. Oak Knoll Press, 2000, pp. 141, 144-5, ill.

Paul Goldman Beyond Decoration: The Illustrations of John Everett Millais. London, 2005, Book Illustrations, 25 (vi), pp. 13, 16, 19, 25, 44, 146, ill.