John Everett Millais - Jesus in the house of his parents

by Alexandra Tuschka


A little boy has injured his palm and presents it frontally to the viewer. His mother kneels next to him and looks at the wound. In the background, two men are working on a wooden door, chips are falling. Behind the table in the center where the men are working, an older woman stands watching the scene in front with concern. Shyly, another boy brings a bowl of water into the picture.

"Jesus in the house of his parents" - Millais called his painting, the scene takes place in the carpenter's workshop of Joseph. The latter bends from the right to the boy. He is already represented by his half bald head as an older man - a usual stylization, which is to strengthen the theory of the Immaculate Conception. The boy on the left, on the other hand, who so clumsily brings the water, can easily be identified as John the Baptist.


Millais creates a less than idealized fantasy scene of Jesus' childhood, which in many ways refers to his life journey and the Passion. Through the carpenter's workshop, however, we find a new context of meaning, which Millais cleverly and coherently combines. Thus, a drop of blood falls from Jesus' hand onto his foot, replacing the stigmata; likewise, the ladder in the background, as well as the two nails that lie so present on the wooden panel, refer to the "arma christi". The triangle above Christ's head can be interpreted as a symbol of the Trinity. The dove that has taken a seat on a rung of the ladder is also related to this.


The fictional scene shows Jesus in a white robe with reddish hair. While the people in the background continue to go about their work, his mother, who has fallen to her knees, has already assumed a gesture of mourning and thus points to the coming fate.


John Everett Millais - Jesus in the house of his parents

Oil on canvas, 1849/50, 86.4 x 139.7 cm, Tate Museum in London