The Prodigal Son (in "Good Words for 1863," opp. p. 161)

After Sir John Everett Millais British
Engraver Dalziel Brothers British

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 Prodigal Son appears in Luke:15:11-32, and Millais focused on the verse when the repentant son returns to ask forgiveness and his father "filled with compassion...threw his arms around him and kissed him." Pre-Raphaelite ideals shaped the combination of detailed naturalism and down-to-earth imagery, producing works distinctly different than most religious art of the period.

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